Make Room For Monte Montgomery – swtimes.com (2010)

Articles · February 12, 2010

Monte MontgomeryPlaying seemingly impossible guitar parts is a breeze for six-string maestro Monte Montgomery.

Singing different rhythms and patterns on top of that tricky guitar play also flows naturally without much sweat or worry to the award-winning Austin, Texas, musician.

“I don’t look at that stuff as a challenge,” said the 38-year-old Montgomery during a recent telephone interview. “The guitar stuff, that comes with time, so I really don’t ever think of something I play or sing as being technically hard. I just don’t think of it in that way. It’s just something I do. It’s natural.”

Known for playing a well-worn, 1988 Alvarez acoustic guitar in an assertive way like Jimi Hendrix played electric guitars, Montgomery said he, bassist David Pigott and longtime drummer Phil Bass will perform an assembly line of their popular songs like “Wishing Well,” “The River,” “Moonlight Tango,” “Let’s Go” and the hard-rock-meets-reggae workout, “When Will I,” at 8 p.m. Aug. 5 at Neumeier’s Rib Room & Beer Garden, 817 Garrison Ave., but there won’t be anything “workmanlike” in the performances.

“Musically, I drive the stuff where it goes, but it is spontaneous, too,” Montgomery said. “Our playing is constantly evolving, which makes it fun.”

Montgomery first made an impact on the live music scene when he appeared on the PBS TV show, “Austin City Limits,” in the spring of 1999. To date, he’s broken the necks of at least four guitars, and he’s the only artist ever to win the Best Acoustic Guitar Player Award at the South By Southwest Festival’s Austin Music Awards seven years in a row.

Despite the Birmingham, Ala., native’s colorful guitar style, Montgomery wasn’t ever into the 1980s-metal techniques of “shredders” like Steve Vai, Adrian Vandenberg, Yngwie Malmsteen and Vivian Campbell. He’s always favored the subtle-yet-impressive approaches of guitarists like Mark Knopfler and Lindsey Buckingham.

Montgomery’s covers also steer clear of the busy, “Free Bird”/”Stairway to Heaven” path. Many of his shows include more obscure tributes, like Hall & Oates’ “Sara Smile” and Fleetwood Mac’s “World Turning.”

“It’s funny because I’ve had many good drummers and bass players in this trio, and it didn’t always work,” Montgomery said. “Chemistry is a lot more important that just being good players. I can just take off somewhere on the stage, and look back at Phil, and he’s already there. So is David.”

That telepathic-like understanding in the middle of any given song stems from Montgomery’s friendship with Bass, which dates back to 1984.

“Musically, we are in each other’s heads,” Montgomery said with a laugh. “I know what he’s going to play before he does it, and it’s exciting, too, because we never really play the song the same way twice. It’s never, ‘Oh no, I have to that song again.’ It’s always new and different.”

Montgomery recently has been playing more festivals and other larger settings than in the past. When asked if he would play on “Late Night with David Letterman” or “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson,” to get a big break that such a telecast would bring, Montgomery was quick to answer.

“Oh, I’d pick Letterman, for sure,” he said. “Letterman has a bigger audience. It would be fun.”