The first time I heard "Beg, Steal or Borrow," Ray LaMontagne's widely-played song, I thought, "My god, he's channeling Joni Mitchell." (Seriously. Take another listen. You'll see.) In tone, lyrics, and style, LaMontagne often falls in line with the best of the '60s and '70s folk-rockers, including Mitchell but also Steven Stills and even The Band. Moody, dark, with that signature raspy-breathy voice, LaMontagne's fourth album includes the addition of the Pariah Dogs, a cadre of talented musicians who come bearing pedal steel, banjo, and drums. Recorded over five days in a rural farmhouse, the sound ranges from the Meters-esque funk of "Repo Man," a raunchy, jealousy-driven humdinger, to the sorrowful, lightly-Latin-flavored "This Love Is Over," to more straight folk like the lazy, soaring "For The Summer."
While "God Willin'" won a Grammy, there's still room for growth in LaMontagne's sound. I like his soft, contemplative work, but what I really want more of is the growling, hormonal energy that he exudes in "Repo Man"; there are plenty of good folk singers, but on this funky front, he's a rare find. If he develops this vein, he may well join his influences in the ranks of legends.
Ray LaMontagne plays Big Sky Brewery Monday, June 20, at 7 PM with openers Brandi Carlile and The Secret Sisters. $34 at Big Sky, Rockin Rudy's, and TicketFly.com.