Thoughtful, Soulful, Cool-as-Cucumber
Rudy Palma | NJ | 08/18/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"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."
Parker | 08/17/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Ray's vocals shine once again as he releases his 4th studio album, and I'll be honest it doesn't disappoint. The production is toned down on this album compared to Gossip which had a lot going on to me. The sound/song writing is more similar to LaMontagne's first two albums in my opinion. Highlights include:
"This Love is Over": hauntingly beautiful and reminds us how much emotion Ray can put into his vocals
"God Willin'": one of the best on the album, production is awesome songwriting props for this one
"For the Summer": probably my second favorite, sentimental and just all around great
"Rock 'N Roll & the Radio": my favorite off the album, Ray sings to your soul in this fabulously written song with a passionate performance. One of my favorite songs of his ever.
All in all this CD has not helped me rank LaMontagne's albums being now I cannot choose my favorite out of this one and his first two. Fantastic album, a leap up from Gossip in my opinion which I didn't love and probably going to be one of the best of the year for me!"
God Willin' Ray Will Keep Making Music This Good
M. C. Tolen | Tulsa, OK | 08/18/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Pure and simple...this is great classic music from beginning to end. This may be Ray's most consistently good album he's made yet, at least since Trouble. Whereas previous albums had their standout tracks along with others that took awhile to catch on for me, each song on this album takes hold of you, demanding you to listen until before you know it you've listened to the whole album over and over without skipping a track. Right from the start Ray kicks it off with a funky groovy track like nothing else he's done before called "Repo Man." With the Pariah Dogs giving more of a band feel than a producer's influence, you can totally visualize how Repo Man came into being with Ray likely sitting in a room with the Pariah Dogs, sharing that groove on the acoustic guitar and each member jumping into the jam and adding their own parts to make a great rock song. Like most of Rays songs they would probably be just as good or better if it was just Ray and his acoustic. But here, I think the Pariah Dogs really earn their billing without taking away from the essence of the song or overshadowing it. Some of the songs do have a more country lilt to them and normally I cringe over pedal steel guitar (too honky tonk for me) but here its very tastefully done and, dare I say, lovely. The production is great and doesn't stray much from the straight forward band lineup or still stripping it down to Ray and his guitar like on "Rock & Roll Radio." I won't knock Ethan Johns production hand in previous releases. He's a great producer and I'm sure he was a big part in casting Ray with horns in some of his soul songs or in more jazzy and pastoral soundscapes. However, I think there was a bit too much production on the last release and overall this album feels more vital, immediate and passionate. Sure there may not be a single song as perfect as "Trouble" or as catchy as "You are the Best Thing." And yes, I always wish Ray would rock out a bit more. But all in all I think this is among Ray's strongest batch of great melodies, songwriting and classic sound. Definitely one you'll want to listen over and over from beginning to end for a long time to come."