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However much time I spend on, with, in, about and around music, and that is a lot of time, it still happens. Amazing, beautiful, breathtaking, awe inspiring music still manages to be out there, entirely outside of my realm of existence. This frustrates and scares me to no end, knowing there just simply isn’t enough time in the day to be on top of it all. Damn you Last.fm, Pitchfork and Stereogum, must you be so infinite?

And so it was, not too long ago, I was at friend CR‘s house and he was playing me some tunes. “You don’t know him??” he asked in disbelief, “you’ll love this!”. What he played me was Trouble by Ray LaMontagne. I was gobsmacked. That voice! Frankly this man could sing the Chinese take away menu to me and I would still quiver with delight.

I was very excited to learn that he had a new album coming out: Gossip In The Grain. Before I even got my hands on the album it happened: I was overtaken. This is what happens when I’m going about my business, quietly loving a specific song or artist that (I very ignorantly think) not many people have heard of yet, and all of a sudden there it is: prime time on mainstream radio. All day every day. I know this is horrible music snobbism, but tell me you’ve never felt that way about any song?

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Well I suppose it was to be expected, with that magnificent single You Are The Best Thing. It’s still Ray, just in a less drug-stained more Motowny sort of jacket. I was glad to find out though, that not the entire album is quite so smoothed out, although considerably more so than its predecessors Trouble and Till The Sun Turns Black. God forbid he’ll be casually mentioned in the same sentence as Gavin DeGraw and James Blunt.

Let It Be Me could have sat well between the songs on Trouble, except for the abundant but lovely string arrangement. Things get really interesting with I Still Care For You, a haunting and dreamy song that you just know will end up accompanying a Grey’s Anatomy scene where Meredith and McDreamy are as always doubting their relationship.

Ray’s funny ode to Meg White is actually a pretty rockin’ tune, even with it’s sugary sweet harmony singing. And who could resist Ray suggesting to to ride your bike along the sea side with him? He’s definitely intent on making the album a varied experience as it then switches to the bluegrassy Hey Me, Hey Mama, which sounds like it could be over a hundred years old, and Henry Nearly Killed Me (It’s A Shame), a nice and gritty blues romp. Title track Gossip In The Grain is a wonderfully mellow closer, is it finished already?

All in all I would say Gossip In The Grain definitely didn’t have the same gobsmacking effect on me as his earlier work. I do miss the punch-in-the-gut rawness of songs like Jolene. But it’s a great album that will definitely bring Ray LaMontagne to a much wider audience, and isn’t that really what making music is about? I’ll have to put my snobbism aside and share him with the rest of the world then. Luckily I’m getting a chance to do so in Paradiso next February.

As there are no videos for the new songs yet, here’s a “fan clip” for the gorgeous I Still Care For You:

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