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From shoe-maker to song of the year contender, folk artist Ray LaMontagne's unassuming background makes him all the more attractive as one of this year's out-of-left-field nominees.

The soft-spoken New Hampshire native's fourth RCA effort, "God Willin' & the Creek Don't Rise," recorded with his band the Pariah Dogs, notched nominations for best contemporary folk album and best engineered album, non-classical. The August-released set debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 and has sold 225,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. It boasts the single "Beg Steal or Borrow," which is up for song of the year.

LaMontagne's career as a singer/songwriter started after he heard a Stephen Stills song on the radio, prompting him to quit his job working in a shoe factory in Lewiston, Maine. RCA released his debut album, "Trouble," in 2004. It was produced by Ethan Johns, who also oversaw LaMontagne's "Till the Sun Goes Black" (2006) and "Gossip in the Grain" (2008).

"God Willin' " marks LaMontagne's first go at filling the producer's chair, recording the set at his home in Massachusetts with the Pariah Dogs. While "Gossip" likewise debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200, the new effort beat his personal-best sales record, signaling the singer's move toward the mainstream.