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.
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