Ratings: **** Excellent; *** Good; ** Fair; * Poor

Ray LaMontagne

Supernova

(RCA ***)

nolead ends Famous for his smooth, smoky voice and softly soulful, earnest craft as a songwriter, Ray LaMontagne has now rearranged his brand of Americana with sensual, reverbing psychedelia and the production help of Black Keys guitarist Dan Auerbach. The result: LaMontagne suddenly sounds as if he's loose and having weird fun. When he sings about wanting his girl on this album's title track, he seems, at last, to really want her - and not just to talk while sipping coffee.

Auerbach's production should get much of the credit for the independence and sexual power of this recording. He brings to Supernova the same treatment he brought to roots-based artists such as Valerie June. (Lord knows what he'll do to Lana Del Rey's next album.) On Supernova, we hear a track such as "Drive-In Movies," with lyrics of youthful motives and desires, plus a jaunty, Brit-pop melody - swathed in dense organ sounds and oozing background voices. "Lavender" conjures more scents and taste sensations than the herb itself. "Pick Up a Gun," an acoustic cut about an emotional dustup, has more key shifts than a Yes album. Supernova is LaMontagne's most complex statement yet about life, love, and music itself.

- A.D. Amorosi

nolead begins

Martina McBride

 

 

nolead ends nolead begins Everlasting
nolead ends nolead begins (Vinyl ***)

nolead ends She has a great voice, and she knows how to use it. But Martina McBride has not always been well-served by her material. That's why, up to now, her best album was Timeless, her 2005 collection of country and country-pop classics.

With Everlasting, McBride again goes the (mostly) classics route. This time she skirts country for a broader stylistic range: Motown ("What Becomes of the Brokenhearted?") to Stax ("I've Been Loving You Too Long"), Philly soul ("If You Don't Know Me By Now") to Chicago blues ("My Babe"), Elvis Presley ("Suspicious Minds") to Van Morrison ("Wild Night") - but the results are just as consistently satisfying.

Producer Don Was frames McBride in tasteful arrangements that don't stray far from the originals but help the singer find the heart of the songs in her own way. Such is McBride's commitment and command that, for all her lung power, two of the most striking selections are the sparest and most subdued - Fred Neil's "Little Bit of Rain" and Phil Spector's "To Know Him Is to Love Him."

- Nick Cristiano

nolead begins

Doug Paisley

 

 

nolead ends nolead begins Strong Feelings
nolead ends nolead begins (No Quarter ***1/2)

nolead ends Canadian singer- songwriter Doug Paisley writes songs that sound lived-in and comfortable from the first listen. They have an aura of simple perfection and ease. That ease is a testament, however, to his skill as a craftsman. It's not simple to make a record that seems as natural and unforced as Strong Feelings, Paisley's third album.

Paisley sings in a casual baritone, sometimes stretching into his high register. He's spent time in bluegrass and country bands, but Strong Feelings has more in common with classic singer-songwriters such as Gordon Lightfoot or Guy Clark. Most of these are gently rolling acoustic tunes, tastefully appointed with contributions from some stellar guests: Garth Hudson on organ, Colin Stetson on saxophone, Mary Margaret O'Hara on counterpoint vocals. The true stars here, though, are Paisley's songwriting and singing, and Strong Feelings is an understated gem.

- Steve Klinge

Doug Paisley and the Josh Olmstead Band play 8:30 p.m. Monday at Boot & Saddle, 1131 S. Broad St. Tickets: $10. Information: 267-639-4528, www.bootandsaddlephilly.com.

Top Albums in the Region

This Week Last Week

Locally   Nationally   Locally

1   1    Various Artists Frozen   1

2   3    Iggy Azalea New Classic   -

3   2    Future Honest   -

4   5    August Alsina Testimony   2

5   4    Pharrell Williams G I R L   5

6   6    Neon Trees Pop Psychology    -

7   12    5 Seconds of Summer      She Looks So Perfect    6

8   108   OCD: Moosh & Twist Living Out Loud   -

9   7    Luke Bryan Crash My Party   7

10   8    Nashville Cast Nashville on the Record   -

SOURCE: SoundScan (based on purchase data from Philadelphia and Montgomery, Delaware, Bucks, Chester, Camden, Burlington and Gloucester Counties). Billboard Magazine 5/10/14 © 2014

In Stores Tuesday

Sarah McLachlan, Shine On;

Natalie Merchant, Natalie Merchant;

Santana,  Corazon;

Hunter Hayes,  Storyline