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God Willin' & The Creek Don't Rise
Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs God Willin' & The Creek Don't Rise
Released 3 September 2010
Producer Ray LaMontagne
Label RCA
Length 44:32
Genre Folk, rock
Website raylamontagne.com

After hearing Stephen Stills’ 'Treetop Flyer' on the radio during an early shift at work Ray LaMontagne had a lightning strike moment of inspiration to quit his job and take up guitar. And judging by his ever increasing success a lot of people are very glad he did. It's been a completely unparalleled rise for the New Hampshire born shoe factory worker since his debut album Trouble propelled him out of obscurity to international recognition in 2004. But from very humble beginnings God Willin' & The Creek Don't Rise is now LaMontagne's fourth studio album and you might even wonder how things have changed with success for LaMontagne and if it's quelled or made disingenuous the down home spark that endeared so many people to his earlier releases.

Not so, thankfully, God Willin' & The Creek Don't Rise is as much a LaMontagne album as any before. But this time we can see a definite progression in musical style and the soft spoken singer works for the first time in a legitimate manner with the session musicians he travels with on tour; The Pariah Dogs. Recorded in only six days on LaMontagne's Massachusetts estate the session musicians bring new energy to the album. LaMontagne certainly captures something significant here again, in fact, he always does. “There's something magical that happens when these musicians play together,” Ray mentions “I've been wanting to capture what we've been doing live for a while. The chemistry is really special.”

LaMontagne's themes haven't changed nor have his raspy blues vocals and he still retains an uncanny knack for making music that although steeped in the stereotypical manages despite it to always seem extraordinarily full of depth and exceedingly on point. The countrified bluesy wails of the pedal steel slide guitar is omnipresent in God Willin'... and joined by banjo and harmonica makes for an album that brims with inescapable back porch nostalgia and longing for simpler times. While the opening track 'Repo Man' is a Joe Cocker inspired brush off to a wandering ex-girlfriend, songs like 'Are we Really Through' and 'This Love is Over' are so downbeat and maudlin (in the way only country can be) that they may bring some listeners to their knees. The title track 'God Willin' & The Creek Don't Rise' and 'New York City's Killing Me' hint at LaMontagne's dissatisfaction with hollow hotel living and travails of a celebrity lifestyle but they stand side by side with songs of hometown escapism and early financial struggle like 'Beg, Steal or Borrow' and 'Old Before Your Time'. So that we're left with an album whose threads can equally be traced back to LaMontagne's disadvantaged upbringing and his shoe factory blues as well as the newly encountered perils of attempting to live an unconventional lifestyle and succeeding at it.

This is LaMontagne's most autobiographical album to date but listeners definitely won't be put off by what he has to say. LaMontagne once again proves that you don't need to venture outside the radio friendly into a musically and lyrically experimental horizon to still be relevant, or, indeed, to have heart enough to make a damn good album.

- Cormac O’Brien