Monday, July 28, 2014

Music Review: Bonnie Montgomery

Bonnie Montgomery
Bonnie Montgomery
Produced by Jason Weinheimer, Nathan Howdeshell, and Bonnie Montgomery
© 2014 Fast Weapons Records

Bonnie Montgomery is not retro. She is Old School. She plays a brand of country music that hearkens back to its classic days when Hank Williams Sr., Johnny Cash, and Patsy Cline topped the charts. Indeed, her vibrant (and classically trained) alto puts one in mind of Cline’s instrument, but where Patsy’s music was polished to a fine, sparkling sheen, Bonnie favors the earthy grit and boom-chicka rhythm of Johnny Cash’s Tennessee Three. Nathan Howdeshell (moonlighting from the famous dance-punk band Gossip) brings guitar sounds that are thoroughly modern, while still recalling the resonator and “wobble tone” six strings of vintage and classic country.

“I left old Black County just to search for my soul,” Bonnie sings in the opening verse of the album, uttering a phrase that comes as close as anything to expressing the album’s predominant theme. Bonnie Montgomery is suffused with a profound wanderlust. It’s filled with tales of the homes we leave, the homes we find, and the tension between the two. Bonnie is the sole songwriter for all ten songs on the album. Some of these songs springs from her personal and/or family history (“Nashville,” “Daddy’s,” “Joy”), others from her considerable imagination. All of them are rooted in the long-standing, and long-neglected, tradition of country music as a storytelling medium, a medium at which Bonnie exceeds. “Take Me or Leave Me,” with its religious imagery and spare first-person perspective, is an outlaw song worthy of Johnny Cash. In just a few words, “Cropdust Skies” recalls all the small, happy memories of a shared life to evoke a deep sense of time and place, celebrating the life of a lost love.

Bonnie’s been playing all or most of these songs for several years now, which has resulted in a mature and confident debut album that will, I believe, rank among the year’s best releases. The best part is, if you’ve seen her live more than once, you know she has a repertoire deep enough to record a follow-up that’s just as good without writing a single new song.

Bonnie Montgomery is available today for download at iTunes and Amazon. You can purchase the CD locally at Arkansas Record and CD Exchange, or order it online from Fast Weapons Records. A vinyl LP version is planned for later this year.