Lovers Lane
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Midweek bliss

| August 23, 2010

Dan Mangan and Ray LaMontagne are here this week, and neither’s particularily ready to let you into his singer/songwritin’ heart.

Mangan’s Nice, Nice, Very Nice (Arts & Crafts) could have done better to endear itself to other than boldly referencing Kurt Vonnegut right away — thank God the Vancouverite has a sense of humor. The album, his second, puts away the collectible “My Influences” scrapbook and pushes forth with a scrappy pad of Americana songwriting. “The Indie Queens Are Waiting,” despite its irreverent title, boasts a living-room female background singer, while the music-hall “Some People” makes an art of rhythmic pacing. Some lines, “I don’t want to be just another wasted puzzle piece,” strain credibility, but the grainy, Glen Hansard quality his voice acquires when heated is more than enough to carry the weaker sequences. (Tuesday@Schubas with The Wooden Birds and Hospital Ships.)

I always thought LaMontagne was secretly bothered by the Jeff Buckley-ness his debut album portrayed, and has since been working to reverse the stereotype. The two-year-old Gossip In The Grain worked in so many shadows it was difficult to get a sense of him at all anymore, in correcting that, this summer’s God Willin’ And The Creek Don’t Rise (RCA) begins to rebuild his image. Eerily soulful but ready to rollick, his fourth album brings a polished, front-porch jam without gliding past on smooth production values. LaMontagne and producer Ethan Johns return the focus to the voice that got us to this point. (Wednesday@Pritzker Pavilion with David Gray.)

— Steve Forstneger

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Category: Featured, Stage Buzz, Weekly

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