Ray LaMontagne: Gossip In The Rain (RCA Victor)

Ray LaMontagne is the stereotypically shy singer-songwriter. Reclusive and soft-spoken, he declines interviews, has little audience rapport and a somewhat bitter past. He is also one of the best singers you might hear this year. Warm, crusty and soulful, his instantly recognisable voice sounds like a cross between Nick Drake and a young Van Morrison. Musically, his album is a mixture of folk and soul, and opens with a classy Motown number a la the Temptations. Though his lyrics are a bit straight-forward and amateurish (with the exception of the cheeky ‘Meg White’, a song about courting Jack White’s ex), the album makes up for that shortcoming with its tenderness. BL