Unfortunately, the creamiest talent doesn't always rise to the top — which explains in part why the growing popularity of Ray LaMontagne (who joins Ingrid Michaelson at a taping of etown) is so gratifying. The folk-and-roots-infused music he makes is about as trendy as bustles and Sansabelt slacks, and the only thing more restrained than his singing is his approach to publicity. Nevertheless, LaMontagne's audience has grown with each album, and Gossip in the Grain — his third full-length, which is set for a September 30 release — should bring even more recruits aboard. The recording isn't as consistently intense as its predecessor, 2006's astonishingly uncompromised Till the Sun Turns Black. Indeed, there are even some modestly light-hearted moments — notably "Meg White," an unlikely tribute to the White Stripes' pounder. Even so, the irresistible "Let It Be Me" and the nakedly poignant "A Falling Through" stand with his best work. Make way, milk; more cream is on its way.
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