How refreshing it is when a master producer and a great artist collaborate for a second time , only to reward listeners with a collection of songs that sound nothing like the prior recording. Ethan Johns and Ray LaMontagne hook up to produce one of the real stunning and rewarding discs I've heard this year. Stunning, because how different the disc is from it's predecessor. Overall the recording is a hushed, lush affair with orchestration and simple use of acoustic sounds which at times sound so fluid, yet fragile, that you think the song is about to fall apart. Organ , guitar, flute, you name it, seems that Ethan pulls them all out of the closet for use at the right time. Ray's vocals are far more subdued on this release and he only let's it fly on the radio single, "Three More Days" which relies heavily on a simple funky organ groove that slowly rises into an all out rocking affair with the added bonus of Memphis horns. Because of the song's slow build up, it fits nicely into the mix and doesn't stand out of place. There's flourishes of everyone from George Martin with The Beatles, John Lennon with Billy Preston, Van Morrison's "Astral Weeks" era and Joe Boyd with Nick Drake. The gorgeous Spanish guitar on "Lesson Learned" is of heart breaking stuff which then leads the listener into the only instrumental track, "Truly, Madly, Deeply. The album closes with "Within You" which has to be one of the most beautiful, simple pleads for love and peace in our world since John Lennon and Yoko Ono were doing it in the 70's. Yeah, the lyrics are short and repetitive, but that's the point, to focus our ears on the simple message backed by the New Orleans style horns, ukulele, strings and Ray's amazing voice, which sounds amazingly like a slide guitar on this track. Good stuff!
Stand out tracks for me:
-"Be Here Now"