Ray LaMontagne unveils diverse third album ‘Gossip in the Grain’

Molly Schreiber

After four successful years and two solid records, Ray LaMontagne proves that three times truly is the charm.

His third studio release, “Gossip In the Grain,” showcases his remarkable growth as both a singer and a song writer.

With the success of his past two albums, LaMontagne made little effort to venture away from the dark beauty of his epic ballads.

With a slew of fans satisfied by his adherence to the folk mentality, experimentation and drastic expansion within his third record seemed unlikely.

However, “Gossip In the Grain” exceeds expectations without abandoning LaMontagne’s distinctive sound.

The first track of the album, “You Are the Best Thing,” catapults the listener into the world of Stax sound, Motown horns and soulful lyrics.

With the help of Supremes-esque backup singers, LaMontagne translates the wounded yearning that characterized the sounds of his first two albums into a soulful longing.

Without disrupting the fluidity of the album, the following track, “Let It Be Me,” reassures the listener that his trademark sound is not lost.

His rough voice, akin to the vocals of predecessors like Van Morrison and Cat Stevens, returns to his expertly practiced role of injured lover, lending the album both vulnerability and honesty.

In “Sarah,” another track that illustrates his growth as an artist and loyalty to his sound, LaMontagne employs his emotional lyricism with more uplifting instrumentals, adding accessibility in addition to depth.

Sandwiched between tracks with the classic LaMontagne sound lie songs of humor and triteness.

LaMontagne, famous for his heartbreaking ballads, integrates commendable wit and forced comedy, as well.

In his love song to the White Stripes’ drummer, “Meg White,” LaMontagne utilizes the simplistic lyrical style of Buddy Holly’s “Peggy Sue,” emphasizing the purity of his love with uncomplicated lyrics.

LaMontagne drawls: “Someday/ I’d like/To take a walk with you/ Maybe ride our bikes down by the seaside/ … Meg White/ Baby you’re the bomb.”

In his laughable attempt at musical humor, the listener is left both amused and a little confused.

While his musical expansion is laudable and the song is charming, there is little warning or segue.

As his humor becomes more evident, though, its relationship to the album strengthens.

The listener can’t help but smile when LaMontagne’s giggle introduces the track “Hey Me, Hey Mama.”

For fans, this change may be hard to stomach, but it undoubtedly foreshadows future triumphs.

With a sound reminiscent of Johnny Cash in “Henry Nearly Killed Me (It’s a Shame),” and traces of Motown magic in “You are the Best Thing,” “Gossip In the Grain” demonstrates LaMontagne’s musical prowess and budding versatility.

While the title track holds little weight in the album, the work in its entirety is the perfect soundtrack for fall.

While maintaining his style, LaMontagne successfully incorporates other genres and instruments cohesively.