By Jeremy Hallock
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By Observer Staff
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There are not too many things in this world that impress me outside of sex acts and Johnny Cash's pulse. But the first time I planted myself and watched singer-songwriter-guitarist Monte Montgomery perform, I was astonished. This man's a true guitar genius, standing at the brink of six-string immortality. (Then again, I said that about one of the Hanson brothers.) Montgomery's playing blends Lindsey Buckingham, Mark Knopfler, and Stevie Ray Vaughan into a handsome cocktail of jaw-dropping wizardry that leaves everyone exhausted by last call. It's damned fun to watch the faces of those Monte virgins when his first solo breaks the maidenhead. Trust me. He will wow you. You could watch a hundred musicians pile into a nightclub for a Montgomery show, and everyone -- except Andy Timmons -- would come walking out of there privately reassessing, "Man, I suck on guitar." Yes, it's true. Andy Timmons is just that cocky.
The Austinite is an aggressive guitar player, spitting harmonics and firing off riffs that make any Mel Bay student wish he had never learned what a plectrum is. Yet he's also quite tasteful, willing to play a nice sustained six-fret chord rather than stab you in the ear with a gee-ain't-I-fancy run. He does all of this on one single old beat-up acoustic guitar; that's his gimmick. No matter what the desired sound, Monte Montgomery gets it out of his '89 Alvarez. He'll play it as an acoustic, then haul off and throw a tubescreamer on it and crunch it like a Tele. Keeping the beat, Montgomery's slapped at that dreadnought body so often during the past decade, the guitar's getting painfully close to sporting a Willie hole. He'll even bend the neck of the guitar when he realizes that acoustics avec tremolo are not quite yet en vogue. Just watch that instrument endure Monte's three-hour assault, and you'll know how it feels to be married to O.J.
Monte's two CDs, 1998's 1st and Repair and the recently released Mirror are decent enough albums, but the real pleasure comes from watching Monte Montgomery perform live, a fact not lost on his label, which has included in-concert video performances on both of his enhanced CDs. If you've got a computer and a CD-ROM drive, you can view his soulful stylings in the comfort of your own cubicle while figuring out how to smuggle your favorite girl-girl MPEGs past the company firewall.
I don't know which Chuck Darwin book covered this, but every guitar-driven outfit must evolve into a three-piece band (cf. Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix, The Outfield, etc.). Montgomery's is no exception: He's backed by the very credible Chris Maresh on bass and Phil Bass on drums. The quid pro quo of witty remarks between the three onstage even makes between-song downtime a show all by its lonesome. Though it goes against the rule of rock that musicians shouldn't speak to the audience and, especially, amongst themselves, these guys are funny. So check him out, if only to see the next Texas guitar hero before he becomes, ya know, famous.
ó Gordon Keith