Wednesday, September 1, 2010

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

I think most people are familiar with Ray LaMontagne’s most popular song to date, Trouble. I have even seen it performed by contestants on American Idol, which gives you an idea of its widespread popularity but isn’t necessarily representative of Ray’s usual audience. I was a little surprised to see his newest album, God Willin’ & the Creek Don’t Rise, at the top of the iTunes chart last week, only because I didn’t think he would attract so much interest so quickly after its release. I also wondered who these Pariah Dogs are who are paired up with him on the album since he’s formerly been a solo artist. Their name doesn’t sound too friendly- why not Ray LaMontagne and the Sociable Kittens? It turns out the Pariah Dogs are simply a group of musicians who Ray assembled to record this album, so I don’t know if they’re here to stay or not. Out of curiosity, I did a Google search on “What is a pariah dog?” and found out from Wikipedia that they are feral dogs, often found in India, usually yellow with pointed ears. Very helpfully, the description was accompanied by a photo of a pariah dog, which looked suspiciously similar to your garden variety yellow lab, one of whom resides in my house. Hmmm…

Normally I would not be inclined to recommend a rather bluesy, somewhat melancholy album, but Ray is so emotional that you will find yourself moved by many of the songs. My two favorites are probably the saddest ones on the album, which wouldn’t usually be songs I’d be attracted to. You can probably guess what the subject matter is in Are We Really Through and This Love is Over. I am sure I read years ago around the time of the release of one of Ray’s previous albums that he was going through a divorce at the time or immediately afterwards. If that was the case, he should probably think about finding a support group if these songs are any indication of how he’s doing now. If you are going through a breakup and feel like you haven’t cried quite enough, you might want to listen to one of these songs. Even so, I think they are both beautiful songs, partly because of the feeling he puts into them.

Aside from the sad songs I mentioned, I also liked Beg, Steal or Borrow, which talks about whether a “young man” will follow the same small town pattern put in place by his father or whether he’ll break free and make a mark of his own. All of the songs on the album have interesting, thoughtful lyrics. Although the overall sound of Ray LaMontagne is never necessarily going to be perky and upbeat, this album doesn’t have a “downer” feel to it; it’s more contemplative, and many of the songs pick up the twangy, folk sound that I think he’s known for. There is something about the music on this album that is comforting and reminiscent of music my parents used to listen to in the Seventies, possibly that folk sound coming through. Supposedly Ray was inspired to start singing after listening to a Steven Stills album.

Although Ray grew up on the west coast, he lives in Maine and looks like a quintessential mountain man. He apparently doesn’t like making videos because he doesn’t consider himself attractive enough for that, but would he really have much street cred as a folk singer if he looked like Zac Efron? This is a nice album- you won’t have to work hard to appreciate it, but I predict it will suck you in emotionally, which I believe is Ray LaMontagne’s gift.

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1 comment:

  1. Your dog is cute...But he looks nothing like a Pariah dog.