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CD Review: Ray LaMontagne's Gossip in the Grain

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The Deal: Singer/songwriter brings touring band into the studio for third album.

The Good: While the song styles vary on the album a bit – from old-school soul to folk to banjo-driven front porch music, LaMontagne's voice remains the string to hold them together. The album's opening track, "You are the Best Thing," is straight-outta-the-'60s soul with a good groove. At other times, LaMontagne's voice closely resembles that of Cat Stevens. The six-minute-plus "Winter Birds" showcases LaMontagne's vocals over an acoustic guitar. "Hey Me, Hey Mamma" has a front-porch feel as he sings over a banjo with a jug band vibe. "Henry Nearly Killed Me" is an upbeat country rocker with hints of harmonica that fit right in.

The Bad: The spacey "I Still Care For You" could have used a little less echo on his voice. "Meg White" was difficult to take seriously – a White Stripes-ish beat with LaMontagne's personal letter to the band's drummer. It wasn't bad musically – with a beat out of The Beatles' catalog – but it was lyrically distracting. "Jack is great, don't get me wrong, but this is your song," he sings.

The Verdict: LaMontagne's near-whisper vocals can come across as weak, but his songwriting is diverse and solid from start to finish.

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