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Ray LaMontagne
God Willin' & The Creek Don't Rise
RCA Records
www.raylamontagne.com


There's something to be said for songwriters who refuse to settle for the same tricks all the time. The same old thing will get stale pretty fast, so you need to break out new ideas and fresh perspectives on your own sound. Ray Lamontagne excels at this aspect of songwriting, which shows on his new album, God Willin' & The Creek Don't Rise. He's always had a soulful voice that added a layer of uniqueness to his style of folk music; his second [album] had him getting a little more experimental with his sound and song structure, and now he's brought out the country influence.

This can be noticed right away on "Beg, Steal, or Borrow", which is the sort of song that Joni Mitchell might write if she wrote a country song. It's got a steady pace and relies on Ray's vocals to drive home a warning to a young man that the world is a hard place and he is going to have to make some hard choices. It's a highlight of the album and an instant LaMontagne classic. There's also "Old Before Your Time" which features a banjo and is more of a bluegrass-y song. It's a slow, meditative number that continues the idea of growing up as Ray looks back on where he came from and where he is now and how hard times can make kids grow up too fast. Of course, the song that many people know from this album is "Repo Man", the angry tell off to an unfaithful woman who keeps trying to come back to Ray. While the metaphor seems a little messy given what a repo man is versus what is being described in the song, it's still a solid song, brimming with angry energy. If you needed a starting place to get introduced to the album, you can't go wrong with this one, which became the lead single.

The only real thing wrong with this album is that a couple of the songs aren't as memorable as the rest. They're still good, but it's a matter of just being good when everything else is great. Both those songs are right in the middle; "Are We Really Through" is sparse and melancholic, which Ray has done well in the past, but it seems like Ray has written better songs about the end of relationships and this one just seems like an alright set of lyrics that would be forgettable if it weren't for Ray's voice. Then there's "This Love Is Over", which is another slow, sparse song, with just Ray and a guitar. The problem is that the song is a little too slow for its own good and again, the lyrics aren't as catchy or memorable as the rest of the album. Without Ray's strong vocals, the song would probably just get lost entirely.

Nevertheless, this album is a strong one and a must-have for fans. Even if you aren't a fan yet, this is some of Ray's best work and you will find much to love about the album. As Ray continues to grow as an artist with each release, this is not disappointing and is a worthy continuation of his career. It will make listeners that much more excited to hear what he has planned next.

-Brenden Kirch

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