What I’m Listening To (10.27.08)

51e5yel1vwl_ss500_.jpgGossip in the Grain
Ray LaMontagne

I had the opportunity to see Ray LaMontagne live and in person over the weekend. It was a rare treat for me to sit during an entire concert and to just allow myself to marinade in the sounds and lyrics. By himself, Ray is an incredible talent but the backing band really completed the picture. I really enjoyed hearing some of these new tracks live. All in all he played about 9 songs from the new album. It was a great concert and I would definitely pay to see him again.

Ray LaMontagne has quickly become one of my favorite voices out there due to his deeply touching lyrics and scruffy vocal delivery. This new album, which at first listen felt a little over-produced, has after subsequent hearings crept into my subconscious. There really is very little difference between this album and Ray’s other two, Trouble and Til the Sun Turns Black. My initial reaction to cry, “Over-produced!” to the new album was due in part to the fairly charismatic first track, You Are The Best Thing which finds Ray and a horn section gushing with exuberant praise for his beloved. Two other tracks, Meg White (yes, of the White Stripes) and Hey Me, Hey Mama seem out of place on a Ray LaMontagne album but are nonetheless good tracks. The great tracks though are forged from the same stuff that make Ray such a great voice and talent. Songs like Winter Birds, Let It Be Me, and I Still Care For You showcase great lyrics, haunting vocals, and amazing instrumentals. Rather than existing outside of the catalog, this group of tracks seek to push the catalog forward into new and familiar territories. No small feat indeed.

You owe it to yourself to at least check this album out. Now that the days are shorter and the temperatures are lower, this album would make a great soundtrack to curling up on the couch with a good book or playing in the background as you shared a nice romantic dinner with your significant other. 4 out of 5 stars.

61csdred-al_ss500_.jpg Limbs and Branches
Jon Foreman

It takes a unique artist to take Isaiah 1:10-20 or Amos 5:21-24 and turn the harsh words of these prophets into a worship song. Yet here is Jon Foreman, the voice of Switchfoot, doing that and much more. In this one song Foreman puts our focus exactly were it should be- off of the programs and on to the Savior.

I hate all your show and pretense/ The hypocrisy of your praise/ The hypocrisy of your festivals/ I hate all your show/ Away with your noisy worship/ Away with your noisy hymns/ I stomp on my ears when you’re singing ‘em/ I hate all your show/ Instead let there be a flood of justice/ An endless procession of righteous living, living/ Instead let there be a flood of justice/ Instead of a show

No this isn’t a Derek Webb album. This, in my opinion, does Derek one better.

Throughout 2008, Foreman released 4 EPs- Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter- each filled with mostly acoustic ballads driven by a sense of discovering God in the midst of our lives. The lyrics are challenging, the music is challenging, and the format seemed challenging. So Foreman asked fans to pick their favorite tracks from the EPs and that he would release a long play “album” with their picks pluse 2 new tracks. The result is Limbs and Branches a not-quite-perfect collection. Instead of a Show is here. So is The Cure for Pain and In My Arms. Unfortunately you’re missing out on some real gems (Baptize My Mind, My Love Goes Free). I would forgo this collection and plunk down the extra money for the individual EPs. You won’t be sorry. Limbs and Branches: 3 out of 5 stars; Jon Foreman’s EP collection (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter): 5 out of 5 stars