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Review: Ray LaMontagne at The Lawn 

Ray LaMontagne & The Pariah Dogs, Brandi Carlile

June 14, The Lawn at White River State Park

3 stars (out of 5)

There isn't much to look at during a Ray LaMontagne concert.

The folk-rock troubadour is notoriously private and introverted, even on stage. He uses lights less to shine attention on himself than to almost conceal himself from his audience.

Therefore, at a Ray LaMontagne show, it's all about the music. And with his stellar backing band the Pariah Dogs, LaMontagne delivers on that front.

He writes and performs a kind of stuff that's closer to country than most anything you'll hear emanating from Nashville nowadays. And he oscillates between revved-up ragged rockers and soul-searching acoustic numbers with ease.

The meandering country-rock slide of "Hold You in My Arms," one of the early tunes of the evening, was beautifully accentuated, as many of the slower songs were, with lap steel and pedal steel guitar. Sometimes that gap was perfectly bridged. "Beg Steal or Borrow" was a seamless blend of acoustic and electric.

The crowd really came alive when LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs broke out the stuttering, twangy boogie of "Repo Man," a cut that owes a debt to '70s Solid Gold. A cover of the Merle Haggard standard "Mama Tried" was a spot-on Opry jam.

There was a bit of a lull in the late stages of the set, but LaMontagne effectively mixed tougher-sounding numbers into the repertoire, including the back porch stomp of "Devil's in the Jukebox." By the time LaMontagne broke out some honky-tonk harmonica on the locomotive "Henry Nearly Killed Me (It's a Shame)," attendees were back on their feet like they were looking for an excuse.

LaMontagne has publicly said that he's primarily influenced by rock-oriented singer-songwriters like Stephen Stills, but country is definitely in his blood. That's especially evident in much of his lyrics, including the waltzing "You Can Bring Me Flowers," on which LaMontagne sings, in his signature breathy, raspy voice, "When I'm dead and gone."

Supporting act Brandi Carlile comes from the same kind of stock, even though she hails from the grunge capitol of Seattle. She mines a spunky mix of rock and adult contemporary, but also geeks out on classic country. She effectively warmed up the crowd with a slamming, rockabilly version of Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues."

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