Ray LaMontagne Gossip in the Grain

Ray LaMontagne Gossip in the Grain
Gossip in the Grain finds the soulful, introspective songwriter from Maine remaining serious and sombre but adding a dose of fun to his repertoire. Following the dark depths of melancholy that hung over his last disc (Till the Sun Turns Black), LaMontagne shows he can write a song that doesn’t get you down. Recorded once again with Ethan Johns, but this time in the producer’s neck of the woods at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios in Box, Wiltshire, England, the songwriter uses the beauty of the pastoral English countryside to inspire this richly layered collection of songs. The disc opens with the groovy 21st century throwback to Motown, "You are the Best Thing.” This newfound playfulness in song is especially apparent on "Meg White,” the tongue-in-cheek ode to the White Stripes rocker, and "Henry Nearly Killed Me,” a harmonica blues number that sounds like it was brewed up on Chicago’s west side. There’s still the sleepy-eyed numbers where the songwriter digs deep and lays it on heavy with his whispered delivery, such as "A Falling Through,” where LaMontagne is joined by singer-songwriter Leona Naess. Gossip in the Grain is another solid effort from a guy who not that long ago was working at a shoe factory.

Tell me about the playful song "Meg White.”
That one is heavily tongue-in-cheek. It’s just one of those songs that pop into your head and you write it. I wouldn’t have recorded that a couple of years ago but now feel it’s important to have songs like that because the last record was pretty heavy. As Ethan put it, "it asked a lot of the listener.”

I understand you recently moved into a farmhouse in Maine once owned by the late, great American author Norman Mailer. Did this place inspire these songs?
No, but it’s nice to be in a quiet place up in the mountains; it’s just a soulful place for me.

Not so long ago you worked at a shoe factory, now you have three major records under your belt. Do you often think back about how far you’ve come?
Every time I get into my truck to go to the store, I think about it because I’ve got a vehicle that starts and it has all five gears, including reverse. Every time I get into my pickup I think of what a long road it has been and how grateful I am to pursue something I love so mu (RCA)