This week, local roots-rock/Americana artist Dan Montgomery will roll out his third solo album, You'll Never Be a Bird, with a CD-release show at Nocturnal, along with Ross Johnson's Problem and Lorette Velvette & Alex Greene. Both the venue and the supporting acts hold special significance for the veteran musician and songwriter.
"I started coming [to Memphis] in about 1986 as the soundman for the Ben Vaughn Combo," Montgomery says. "We used to play the Antenna club [site of the present-day Nocturnal]. We loved coming to Memphis. It was always a great town for us to just hang in as well as play music. The people who showed us Memphis from the inside-out were the folks from the Panther Burns and WEVL.
"So, there's a kind of perfect-circle thing that the record-release show takes place at Nocturnal and that Lorette Velvette and Ross Johnson [veterans of the Tav Falco-led Panther Burns] are on the bill that night."
It wasn't music that ultimately led Montgomery, an East Coast native reared in New Jersey, to Memphis, however; it was love. Even that story has Antenna ties.
"I also met my wife there 20-some years before we re-met in 2001," he says.
Montgomery's music career started when he was a teenager in the late '70s, playing in a series of garage-ish cover bands. Throughout the '80s and '90s, he performed and toured with a host of groups throughout the Northeast, including Drugs Before Breakfast and Del Pez, and also worked on the side as a road manager and live sound engineer.
But his solo turn didn't happen until roughly 2002, after a failed move to California. It was then that Montgomery moved to Memphis for good, married his wife, Stephanie, and began pursuing music on his own. "I was always in bands before," Montgomery says. "It wasn't until I got here that I fully went solo."
Montgomery's independence freed him to explore new approaches to songwriting and allowed him to indulge his rootsier musical tendencies. But while he accepts being labeled as an Americana artist, he sternly rejects any notion of being a singer-songwriter.
"That conjures up some lazy guy on a stool, singing about how sensitive he is," Montgomery says. "Singer-songwriters write introspective songs about heartbreak. I write heartbreaking songs about introspection."
2003's Man From Out of State was Montgomery's solo debut, and he followed it in 2007 with the ambitious concept album Rosetta, Please (A Love Story). Both were well received internationally thanks to relentless touring, sporadic radio play, and rave reviews from respected publications such as No Depression and The Philadelphia Inquirer, as well as smaller 'zines and blogs.
Earlier this year, Montgomery began work in the studio for You'll Never Be a Bird with esteemed local producer/engineer Kevin Cubbins, whose talents also added to the project's success.
"Kevin brings a whole lot to the table," Montgomery says. "In fact, Kevin brings the table. He really encouraged authenticity. He's not about perfection; he's about real feelings being conveyed. I'm never going to sound like Pavarotti. But I feel like my singing has taken a real step forward on this record. And a lot of the credit for that goes to Kevin. I'm sure I can't praise him enough."
The record also features guest appearances by several noteworthy local musicians, including Robert Mache, Louis Meyers, Rick Steff, Andrew Simons, and Jana Misener, among others — all of whom also will appear at the CD-release show (except for the recently relocated Simons, whose parts will be re-created by local ace J.D. Westmoreland).
"The current live band is essentially the band on the record," Montgomery says. "Their contributions have been many and mighty."
Dan Montgomery Record-Release Show, with Ross Johnson's Problem and Lorette Velvette & Alex Greene
Nocturnal, Friday, December 10th