Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs: God Willin’ & The Creek Don’t Rise

Ray LaMontagne is one of the exemplary singer-songwriters of the last decade, with albums such as Trouble, ‘Till the Sun Turns Black and Gossip in the Grain, where he’s continually stunned me with a number of songs, ones that have shook me to the core, while massive changes between albums has kept the music fresh, interesting and invigorating throughout. Throughout the albums, however, LaMontagne has kept steady feel and with his works, especially when it comes to the lyrics themselves.

God Willin’ & The Creek Don’t Rise retains a lot of the best sounds of LaMontagne, but he once again stretches into very new territory. Opening with Repo Man, there’s a harsh, accusatory sound to this, and it sets off a series of songs that are fairly dark, compared to some of the other songs in their repertoire. There’s a real shift, which gives an entirely new dynamic to the sound and feel to LaMontagne. There are some standout songs, such as Beg, Steal and Borrow, which ranks amongst the best songs that the singer has put out with a steady country beat driving the song forward. This Love Is Over is another song that feels different: less moody, but more thoughtful as LaMontagne, accompanied by guitar, sails over the lyrics.

Old Before Your Time is possibly one of the songs that really helps to define this album as a whole. Fused with LaMontagne’s great sound, there is a subtle country punk to the entire album, one that feels far more at home in rural country than in the urbanized ones (this image might help, as there’s a song title New York City’s Killing Me, which talks about the depressing and impersonal nature of the city: I just got to get me somewhere, / Somewhere that I can feel free, /Get me out of New York City, son, / New York City’s killin’ me.)

Indeed, a lot of the feel of this album seems split between where someone is and where they want to be in life, which is a fairly constant idea throughout life, with people separated from everything. Armed with the Pariah Dogs, LaMontagne sets up with a country and indie-rock feel that at points feels juxtaposed between styles. The result is a fantastic mix-up of sound and style that represents some of LaMontagne’s best work to date.

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