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Ray LaMontagne 

Gossip In The Grain (Red Ink)

Winter is the season for this performer; this album. Gossip in the Grain goes with warming by a fire or looking through a frosty window for signs of life in the white vista. It's not surprising that LaMontagne does much of his writing and recording deep in the Maine woods. His signature is the rasp---less contrived than Michael Bolton, more vulnerable than Joe Cocker. Orchestral elements, though kept distant, add richness to a few tunes, most notably the confessional "Sarah." Meg White, of The White Stripes, gets a love letter---a welcome dose of light-heartedness. Nothing like a cute drummer to redirect a balladeer's yearning.

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