Since the album finds LaMontagne working without producer and multi-instrumentalist Ethan Johns for the first time, it isn't terribly surprising that the singer is a bit unsteady in taking the reins. Still, it's the things that LaMontagne gets right on God Willin' & the Creek Don't Rise that make it his strongest, most cohesive album to date and a deeply soulful take on contemporary blues and folk.
Positive: 2 out of 2
Mixed: 0 out of 2
Negative: 0 out of 2
Nov 5, 2010The latest release from Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs is a masterful continuation of the recording and performing genius of LaMontagne. This is his, and his band's, best display of instrumental talent to date. The guitar work is miles better than that on his previous recordings. The lap steel and slide guitars are a beautiful touch, adding a layer of texture and context throughout. Ray's voice is still plenty raspy, but the extra breathiness has been cut down, which is a great thing. His vocals are as good as ever with his phrasing and dynamics even more refined. As a songwriter, LaMontagne has had stronger efforts in the past, but looking at the album as a whole, it is his best yet. The melodies are simple, interesting, and intriguing the way that melodies are meant to be with equally relevant lyrical messages. 7 of the 10 songs are 5 star songs, with the other 3 getting a 4 out of 5 rating. This is folk music at it's best. The album layout and song order is put together well, no complaints here. The production is strong and clear with just enough softening around the edges and speaks to the quality of the albums mixing and mastering. Overall, a great record. I can't say that I'm surprised.… Expand
Aug 27, 2010God Willing & The Creek Don't Rise, is the title of the newest album by Ray Lamontagne. Backed by his studio band, dubbed The Pariah Dogs, Lamontagne has created an album that deserves attention. Nicely enough for those of us who still use record players, this album has also been released on vinyl (and they were nice enough to throw in a free mp3 version with the vinyl purchase).
The album begins with Repo Man, a lesson in groovy blues with the flavour of Stevie Ray Vaughan thrown into the mix. Definitely one of the better songs on the album, Repo Man is the perfect song to accompany Lamontagne's raspy voice. It's quick, it's got kick, and it's the perfect opener for the album.
'New York City's Killing Me' is a contrast to the preceding song. Ray slows it down here with a heartfelt tune about feeling out of place, or rather a song about being stuck in a place he doesn't belong, or doesn't want to be, longing for change and freedom. Unfortunately, it brought me down, way down from the high I got from 'Repo Man'. It's almost too much of a jolt to enjoy it.
Track three, which shares it's name with the album itself, feels even slower. The tempo, the raspy voice; it almost feels like I'm back in the 80's with a Bob Seger tune playing on the radio. This trend toward slow songs with a lilting, depressing feel become the albums weak points.
The fourth track, Beg Steal or Borrow, is the only song I've heard on the radio from this album. Someone purchasing the album based solely on this song may find themselves wishing for more tracks of this calibre on the disc. Fortunately this one speeds it up a little bit, something much needed on this album. Beg Steal or Borrow has a country/folk sound to it, and along with Repo Man, it is one of my favourites.
I've listened to this album a handful of times now, and I find myself often skipping tracks simply because they are so slow and lacklustre. It feels like Lamontagne was in a sad sad place when he wrote these songs, and he wanted us to be right there with him. I just can't sit through songs like 'Are We Really Through', and 'This Love is Over' because it feels like they're trying to pull me down into a place I don't want to be. A place of despair that doesn't do me any good at all. These songs aren't bad, but I'd definitely have to be in a low and reflectively silent mood to enjoy them.
Old Before Your Time picks it up again, starting out with a plucking banjo and a simple beat and nice clear, defined guitar work. It's one of those songs that you tap your foot along to, and makes you feel fairly good about life. Again, his raspy voice works very well here, creating a picture of an experienced man singing the wisdom learned through life's hard lessons.
The last tune on the album, The Devil's in the Jukebox, is a song with depth. Backed by a beat, rhythm guitar, and harmonica that actually sound somehow further away than the vocals, this song puts you right into the middle of the band. It feels more like a group of pals playing music out in a field by the light of a campfire, a little unpolished, and a whole lot of real feeling.
God Willing & The Creek Don't Rise is a good album. It's worth a listen if you enjoy folksy/bluesy music, but the momentum of the album is definitely a drawback for me. Overall, it simply seems plagued by depression. For this reason, the album is definitely not useful as background music. When used as background music, all the slow songs seem to drag together, creating the feel of one very long and whiny episode.
The album gets a 3 out of 5, though I wish I could give it a higher rating because Ray seems like a likeable, down to earth sort of guy.… Expand
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