Fans of traditional country music rejoice! Here we have an album full of fiddles, steel guitars, outlaw songs of rambling ways and honky-tonk jams. Arkansas native and opera singer Bonnie Montgomery combines a collection of songs from past EPs with some new material to bring this strong studio debut to life. Many of the tracks feature sharp songwriting with great metaphors and heart breaking stories accompanied by fresh melodies and an impressive vocal delivery. Bonnie is a skilled singer with a wide singing range, comfortably hitting high notes and bringing a low drawled voice on the album’s darker tracks.
The Best Songs on the Album
Bonnie has several strong tracks on this record. “Nashville” is an upbeat song driven by a steel guitar with an acoustic guitar and drum beat filling in, giving it a wonderful honky-tonk feel. This song’s strength though, is in her lyrics. She personifies the city, Nashville, as a man with whom she’s fed up with, but you get a sense that it goes a little deeper. Lines like “You have taken some of my joy” and “Lord knows one girl just can’t always win” seem to imply that this might be more of a song protesting Music Row and the current state of mainstream country music. She describes the old Nashville, and places and sounds she’ll miss when she leaves hoping it’ll be there again when she decides to return. However one interprets the song’s meaning, it’s a great song, with strong, vividly descriptive lyrics that any fan of country music will enjoy. The other big track is “Take Me or Leave Me”, a dark track with a fiddle and a repeated heavy acoustic strum mixed with a banjo. On the track, Bonnie sings as an outlaw on the run from the authorities. The style of the song has shades of “Highway Man,” and I could envision someone like Johnny Cash or Waylon Jennings on the track with it sounding just as natural as Bonnie’s vocals. This is the track where she really sets herself apart from other traditional women of country and even her contemporaries.
The Worst Song on the Album
The last track, “But I Won’t,” doesn’t offer a lot lyrically. It’s a strong honky-tonk song, one that could easily encourage an entire crowd to two-step along while performed live. The lyrics are repetitive and there isn’t much variation in the guitars and drums as the song progresses, which, ironically make the song seem dragging, even though it’s the shortest of the ten cuts on this record.
The Rest of the Album
Themes of the album are traditional country themes: loss, regret, failed relationships, dark content and heartbreaking stories that Bonnie Montgomery sells effectively with her vocals. “Black County” finds Bonnie in the midst of an internal struggle as she has left her man to head west and find herself. She regrets the action because this life out west isn’t as simple and polished. “Joy” has a strong and unique electric guitar and banjo mix that kick off the track and carries throughout the autobiographical song of a mountain man from a big family. She sings the song from the point of view of this man and nails it. A recurring theme throughout many of these tracks is Bonnie putting herself at the center of each story and focusing on her thoughts and commentary on the situation. She wears many hats: as a daughter trying to remain optimistic while her dad is on the death-bed (“Daddy’s”), an orphaned daughter finding redemption and forgiveness through her lonely life journey (“Blood from a Turnip”) and a woman who can’t seem to get away from her man despite knowing they don’t work together (“Lost At Sea”). She’s convincing in every story and situation.
This album would fit right in if it was released forty years ago in 1974. It’s a timeless collection of ten songs that Bonnie Montgomery has put together. There’s a rough edge to the production that compliments the darker nature in the material. A unique, gifted singer, great musical melodies and deep songwriting is what sets Bonnie apart from many of the females in country music’s rich history. Content-wise, Bonnie Montgomery can go toe-to-toe with some of country’s famous male outlaws. This album proves that Montgomery isn’t your average woman in country. She’s not here as a feminist singing for men to respect her; she’s not singing about straying from her mama’s advice or ways. Bonnie Montgomery is here telling country music that she is strong-willed and has a true outlaw attitude. Nashville take notice. Here is yet another impressive output from an independent solo female artist that deserves to be heard.