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Ray LaMontagne - God Willin' and the Creek Don't Rise Album Cover
Author's Rating
Vocals 9.5
Musicianship 8.5
Lyrics 8.75
Production 9
Creativity 9
Lasting Value 9.5
Reviewer Tilt 9.5
Final Verdict: 91%
Member Ratings
Vocals 7.88
Musicianship 7.38
Lyrics 7
Production 7.75
Creativity 7.13
Lasting Value 7.38
Reviewer Tilt 7.38
Average: 74%
Inside AP.net

Ray LaMontagne - God Willin' and the Creek Don't Rise

Reviewed by: Gregory Robson (08/19/10)
Ray LaMontagne and The Pariah Dogs - God Willin' And the Creek Don't Rise
Record Label: RCA
Release Date: Aug. 17, 2010

Let this be known: There are not enough superlatives in the English lexicon to expound on how brilliant and dynamic Maine singer-songwriter Ray LaMontagne truly is. To boot, there's little else to annotate that hasn't already been noted. But, a review is in order, so without further ado, here goes nothing. For starters, God Willin' and The Creek Don't Rise, his fourth album is the first in which he gives due credit to a backing band. That he did so is certainly intentional as the band very much anchors this near-breathtaking body of work.

Take for instance the rousing album opener "Repo Man" which opens with a deeply bowed acoustic guitar, and a swampy Memphis strut that seems culled from the backpages of a William Faulkner novel. A tambourine and rumbling electric guitar jump into the fray after a 60-second instrumental intro and as soon as LaMontagne opens his mouth, those raspy vocals barrel down the lane like a high speed train. From the very first note to the very last note, every fleeting second of "Repo Man," feels like something culled from the history books and it's nothing short of brilliant.

"New York City's Killing Me," is a potent lament on noise and clutter, in which he candidly admits, "Yes I'm tired of all this concrete, I guess I'm tired of all this noise, I gotta get back up in the country, have a couple drinks with the good old boys." And much like said drinks, this mostly acoustic meditation is a tonic for the soul, a solace for the beaten down and a respite for the haggard afternoons in the hot summer sun. Backed by steel guitar and his trusty acoustic, everything about it is classic LaMontagne.

In perfect segue, "God Willin' and the Creek Don't Rise," evokes summer heat, languor and beads of sweat. The dusty rumination is a bare-bones, no-frills admission. While there's a deep percussive core, the omnipresent steel guitar, the entire song sighs and gasps, hems and haws. When it finishes at the 3:21 mark, the entire thing feels far too short. If this is indeed a stab at filler, then hot damn, others have to start pulling their weight.

A shuffling acoustic and steel guitar signal the opening of lead single "Beg Steal or Borrow" in which LaMontagne spices up his vocals and the entire thing begins uncomfortably. But the seasoned veteran that he is, he works it out halfway through and the results are nothing short of stunning. While it's not the disc's signature track, it certainly is worth repeated listens.

As God Willin' and the Creek Don't Rise grinds toward the middle half, the New Hampshire native offers up two more acoustic meditation. The first "Are We Really Through?" is finger-picked, bare bones and deeply cerebral. A timeless breakup ballad it says and does more with just a voice and a guitar, than most of his contemporaries will do with their entire careers. The second ballad is "This Love is Over," which snakes and slithers through another murky breakup.

The steel guitar returns and LaMontagne sounds as weathered as ever. When he painfully sings, "It's more than my pride, its got me all tied up inside girl," he sounds as vulnerable and defeated as a teenager. On the banjo-fueled "Old Before Your Time" he draws on the talents of the Pariah Dogs as he spins a yarn about childhood, hope and of course, romance. Fueled by lines such as, "Looking back I see a kid who was afraid," "Old Before Your Time,' is indeed one of the album's finer points and continues to prove that in the contemporary canon of singer-songwriters few if any, can match LaMontangne.

On the deeply bowed "For the Summer" he once again draws on his band and revisits the landscape of "New York City's Killing Me." When a harmonica jumps in halfway through, the song pushes forward and settles into a thick, dense pallor that's inspired, poignant and deeply affecting.

A harmonica signals the start of "Like Rock and Roll and the Radio," which begins much like a campfire singalong but goes after something far more important.Once again detailing the bitter ache of a painful breakup, he offers up the chorus, "Are we strangers now? Like the Ziegfield girls, the vaudeville show, rock and roll and the radio."

Swampy album closer "Devil's In the Jukebox," draws on the old-time feel of "Repo Man," and the rustic overtones of "For the Summer," and rollicks and kicks with a steadiness and swagger unlike few others. And therein lies the imminent grandeur of God Willin' and the Creek Don't Rise.

Now almost a decade into a career he accidentally backed into, LaMontagne is penning timeless tales that are ripe with potency, professionalism and prestige. Though he's reluctant to vary his sound, the end results are far too magnetic, far too majestic and far too masterful to even allow a twinge of disappointment. Ten years from now, critics and fans alike will look back on these records and be thankful they were created.

Track Listing 1. Repo Man
2. New York City's Killing Me
3. God Willin' and the Creek Don't Rise
4. Beg Steal or Borrow
5. Are We Really Through?
6. This Love is Over
7. Old Before Your Time
8. For the Summer
9. Like Rock and Roll and Radio
10. Devil's in the Jukebox


Recommended If You Like Damian Rice, David Gray, Griffin House


Find Him Here Website
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 35.
05:22 AM on 08/19/10
#2
Moritz421
childhood is a joke
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Awesome review. This album's great.
05:26 AM on 08/19/10
#3
cereal4life
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Ray's the man! Looking forward to this album.

A top review there, Greg! A few minor formatting errors: 1) some quoted lyrics are italicised while others aren't and 2) the word "To" after the first full-stop could do with a space before it. I know, I know, I'm fussy!
05:32 AM on 08/19/10
#4
Gregory Robson
Under Rug Swept
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Ray's the man! Looking forward to this album.

A top review there, Greg! A few minor formatting errors: 1) some quoted lyrics are italicised while others aren't and 2) the word "To" after the first full-stop could do with a space before it. I know, I know, I'm fussy!
Should be fixed. Let me know if they aren't. I don't mind you being fussy, I appreciate the copy-editing. I can't always catch all my mistakes. So thank you.
05:49 AM on 08/19/10
#5
Travis Parno
my sensible heart
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definitely gonna grab this based on the review. also worth mentioning that your writing never ceases to amaze. making me jealous, you jerk!
06:06 AM on 08/19/10
#6
dhayes
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Spot-on review man, album is great.
06:08 AM on 08/19/10
#7
Gregory Robson
Under Rug Swept
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definitely gonna grab this based on the review. also worth mentioning that your writing never ceases to amaze. making me jealous, you jerk!
You're awfully kind. Thank you. And I highly recommend this. It's a gem.
06:15 AM on 08/19/10
#8
LCT9608
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Great album...highly recommend
07:20 AM on 08/19/10
#9
bencoles
http://twitter.com/bencoles_
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Live he is breathtaking, can't wait for the new record. Greg, fantastic review.
08:22 AM on 08/19/10
Momo32T
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I personally love "For The Summer", very tender, sweet song.
09:04 AM on 08/19/10
11:11
Looking for the morning after.
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Awesome review, and love the album. One of my top 5 for the year.
09:10 AM on 08/19/10
ALEXMASONRULES
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absolutely phenomenal album. i cant listen enough
09:18 AM on 08/19/10
provethatIexist
i must have read a thousand faces
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just became even more excited to pick this up later today.
09:57 AM on 08/19/10
Gregory Robson
Under Rug Swept
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Awesome review, and love the album. One of my top 5 for the year.
One of mine too. Cheers!
10:58 AM on 08/19/10
Mario57
We can gallop upon the sea...
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Haven't listened to it yet but that was a good review !
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