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God Willin' & the Creek Don't Rise

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Other albums by Ray LaMontagne & the Pariah Dogs

  1. Live: Fall 2010

Review

It's ironic that the first Ray LaMontagne album to list a band's name on the cover is also his first solo flight. God Willin' & the Creek Don't Rise is his fourth full-length, but it is the first without producer Ethan Johns -- LaMontagne helmed the session at his home studio and it is mostly a loose, laid-back affair with a couple of exceptions. The Pariah Dogs -- bassist Jennifer Condos, guitarists Eric Heywood and Greg Leisz, and drummer Jay Bellerose -- have recorded and/or toured with him previously. The opener, "Repo Man," is the album's wild card. Introduced by a popping upright bassline, it's a gritty funk number that's totally out of place with the rest of what's here. Bellerose plays tight breaks, the guitars roil and coil, and LaMontagne' s protagonist indicts a former lover, spitting out lyrics in a grainy, swaggering growl. The album changes direction abruptly on "New York Is Killing Me." It's a sad country song whose title reveals a longing for somewhere else as Leisz's pedal steel guitar twins with LaMontagne's world-weary voice. The title track is a love letter from a cattle driver to his beloved back at home. Bellerose's deeply tuned snare and tom-toms are balanced by two pedal steels underscoring the otherworldly loneliness in the grain of LaMontagne' s voice. "Beg Steal or Borrow" is a midtempo shuffle that exhorts a younger man to just go; to fulfill his dreams at any cost. Two broken love songs -- "Are We Really Through" and "This Love Is Over" -- seem to echo the sentiments in "Repo Man," albeit far more gently. Both are skeletal and moody; the latter touches on the soul balladry LaMontagne's known for, but with a jazzy touch in the guitars. It's the best cut here. "Old Before Your Time" is the brother to "Beg Steal or Borrow": it reveals the consequences -- perhaps to the man in the mirror -- if the admonitions in the previous tune are not adhered to. "For the Summer" feels like loosely composed filler. The overly long "Like Rock and Roll Radio" stretches a metaphor to its breaking point and a tired beyond. "Devil's in the Jukebox," an uptempo country stomper adorned with reverbed snare, kick drum, LaMontagne' s wailing harmonica, and Leisz' s resonator slide guitar and mandola, redeems the album somewhat at its close. God Willin' & the Creek Don't Rise is a mixed bag. There's fine stuff here to be sure, but as a whole, it feels unbalanced; too much of one sound makes it drag a bit. Given that this is his debut as a producer, it's not unexpected; but after his previous trio of fine recordings, this one feels anticlimactic. ~ Thom Jurek
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  1. # Track Artist Length
  2. 1 Repo Man Ray LaMontagne 6:5
  3. 2 New York City's Killing Me Ray LaMontagne 4:10
  4. 3 God Willin' & the Creek Don't Rise Ray LaMontagne 3:6
  5. 4 Beg Steal or Borrow Ray LaMontagne 4:30
  6. 5 Are We Really Through Ray LaMontagne 4:57
  7. 6 This Love Is Over Ray LaMontagne 3:27
  8. 7 Old Before Your Time Ray LaMontagne 4:0
  9. 8 For the Summer Ray LaMontagne 3:48
  10. 9 Like Rock & Roll and Radio Ray LaMontagne 6:0
  11. 10 The Devil's in the Jukebox Ray LaMontagne 3:56

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