Thursday, January 19, 2012

God Willin' & The Creek Don't Rise by Ray LaMontagne

God Willin' & The Creek Don't Rise by Ray LaMontagne

Grammy nominated and critically acclaimed, Ray LaMontagne returns with his anticipated fourth studio album, God Willin' & The Creek Don't Rise. Entirely self produced (for the first time) the album was recorded in two weeks at LaMontagne's home in the woods of western Massachusetts. The newly restored historic home served as a homemade recording studio for Ray and his fellow musicians. With Ray's vocals at the forefront of the songs and a loose, almost live sounding recording, the album stands as a testament to a band at the height of their powers. The newly coined 'Pariah Dogs', consists of Jay Bellarose (drums), Jennifer Condos (bass), Patrick Warren (keyboard), Eric Heywood (guitar) and Greg Leisz (pedal steel guitar). Individually these musicians have contributed to the live work of such heralded musicians including Beck, Joe Henry, Tom Waits, Lucinda Wlliams, Ryan Adams and Joe Cocker to name a few of their career highlights. Together with Ray they shared a sense that the sessions for this record were rare and extraordinary.

Letting Ray LaMontagne transport you has never been easier, and new LP "God Willin' & the Creek Don't Rise" is the reason why. His fourth album release - and the first to have him billed in a band context with the excellent Pariah Dogs - sounds rich, organic and sincere.

From the first song to the last the album sounds like the kind of live concert one might stumble upon during a night of bar hopping and count himself especially lucky for having chanced upon.

Things are a little changed this time around. The band is front and center in its support of LaMontagne, justifying their co-billing. Furthermore, he has taken over the production helm from Ethan Johns, taking more control over the final product. The result is sonic textures even more mellowed and marinated than before, allowing the songs maximum ability to catch hold and wield an impression upon the listener.

Even if LaMontagne hits upon a cliched phrases or idea here and there ("New York City's Bringing Me Down") it does not detract.

In fact, his directness and lack of pretense result in his themes - among them heartbreak ("This Love Is Over"), self-preservation ("Repo Man") and breaking free from convention (the husky, awesome "Beg Steal or Borrow") - coming off with ease and precisely-chiseled grace. This results in a set of a songs that are arresting at first listen.

A particular highlight is the sublime, catchy, profoundly beautiful "Old Before Your Time," which has such melodic panache it recalls heyday Elton John and Don McLean. It acknowledges the bittersweet reality of the examined life yet remains optimistic and soothing, one of LaMontagne's specialties. The same can be said of "For the Summer," which features awesome instrumental breaks.

LaMontagne has grown remarkably for an artist only on his fourth studio record. "God Willin' & the Creek Don't Rise" is sure to please fans and earn many converts.


Tracer Bullet said...

I've heard some of this music and it was very moving , ill have to give this here a listen

egogrenade said...

good stuff, heard the name before but not checked it out

Shockgrubz said...

I just may be one of those 'converts' you speak of at the end. Great review!

soba said...

I'll have to check this out, thanks for the review.