Monday, August 30, 2010


This is one of my favorite albums of the year so far. Ray LaMontangne is a great singer/songwriter, and this time around, he has a cool backing band, The Pariah Dogs. They include guitarist Greg Leisz, who plays with Matthew Sweet (and has also played for Lucinda Williams, Sheryl Crow and many others), drummer Jay Bellerose (who seems to be T-Bone Burnett's drummer of choice - he's played for Robert Randolph, Jakob Dylan, John Mellencamp, and B.B. King, among many others - Burnett didn't produce this album, by the way, Ray produced it himself), steel guitarist Eric Heywood (who has played with Son Volt, The Jayhawks and The Pretenders) and bassist Jennifer Condos (who has played with Ray in the past, as well as Ryan Adams and Joe Henry).

The opening track, "Repo Man," hits the right note: it's a bit more upbeat and funky than Ray's past songs - plus it has swagger. In "Repo Man," he's not taking back the girl.  After that, he falls back into the more mellow and melancholy vibe that he's more well known for. Even in the first single, "Beg, Steal Or Borrow," which is about breaking out of your hometown, it has a sad feeling to it - as if he's not sure he, or you, will be able to pull it off. Ditto for "Old Before Your Time," about how he looked for his "pot of gold."  Ray's music always seems haunted by heartbreak, and this album has a good amount of that - "Are We Really Through" and "This Love Is Over" aren't getting requested at any dance parties! "Like Rock & Roll and Radio" uses a heartbreaking metaphor ("Are we strangers now? Like rock and roll and the radio"). Strangely, though, the album ends on (what I think is) a positive note: "Devil's In The Jukebox," where Ray singer "packin' my bags and thinking that I'd get out of down, but like an old dog I keep hangin' around/big yellow moon risin' up over them old hills, my baby's on a tear and she's fit to kill." I feel like the song has enough swing that it's suggesting that he'll move on to a better situation.  Hopefully that will produce as good music as he has this time around.

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