After years of traveling, Dan Montgomery is finally home. "I feel more comfortable here than where I grew up [in Pennsauken, New Jersey]," the musician says, reflecting on the two years that have passed since he moved to the Bluff City. "There's such a great local music scene with so many good bands," Montgomery says. "People here are so nice, and there's a different pace. I feel like I fit in here."
Montgomery spent the last decade in search of that feeling, relocating from New Jersey to Michigan, then Arizona and California, before deciding to move south. He'd passed through Memphis dozens of times as Ben Vaughn's soundman, and after a brief visit here a few years ago, he decided to stay. Or, as he puts it, "I fell in love with a girl [photographer Stephanie Sweda], and I fell in love with the town."
Montgomery's latest solo album, Man From Out of State (released on his own Fantastic Yes label), looks back on that journey. "It don't matter where he's been/He ain't from around these ways," he sings on the title track. When prodded, Montgomery merely says that his lyrics "distill 10 years of traveling. When I was out in the desert, I just started writing songs and pulled others together. They cover what I refer to as 10 years, 3,000 miles, and almost as many sleepless nights."
Once he moved to Memphis, Montgomery recorded the tracks at Easley-McCain Studios with a full band, including Vaughn, steel guitarist John McDuffie, and accordion player Gus Cordovox. It's a fuller sound than Montgomery's fans, used to his solo acoustic gigs at Murphy's and Kudzu's, might expect. "It's funny," he says. "For years back home, I was always the singer in loud rock bands, but when I started moving around I had to shift to doing everything solo. I fit in with [the singer-songwriter genre] fine, but I forget that's how people perceive me."
Admitting that his biggest problem is "trying to describe what I do," Montgomery asks, "Am I a singer-songwriter, or Americana, or Triple-A?" He places his style "somewhere between Dave Alvin and Alejandro Escovedo." Laughingly noting that most singer-songwriters are "lazy bastards" who play sitting down before a (hopefully) rapt audience, Montgomery claims that his job is "just to entertain." But with his subtle musicianship and flair for storytelling, he's clearly raised the bar for local performers.
Don't miss Montgomery's CD-release party at Earnestine & Hazel's this Friday, June 25th. He'll be fronting his new band, which includes bassist Maggie Vesey and drummer Angela Horton. Special guests Holly Cole, Okraboy, The Ruffin Brown Band, Melissa Dunn, and Harlan T. Bobo will also perform. The show starts at 8:30 p.m.
Drink up, because the next round is on Stout: The local-band-turned-road-warriors is making a hometown pit stop at Young Avenue Deli this Friday night. "We've had a mad string of gigs," drummer Robert Kamm says, calling from a hotel room in East Tennessee. "For only being in this game for a short while, the accolades are coming fast and furious."
Last spring, the Southern-rock jam band was one of a handful of Memphis groups tapped to play the prestigious South By Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas. "We already had everything in place with our tour, because we figured we wouldn't get invited," Kamm says. "We got the call for a big gig [at SXSW], playing after the High Times party, but we had to turn it down. Things got a little tense, but they rescheduled us. We stuck to our original plan, played a smaller show in Austin, and then went on to Oklahoma City."
Stout was chosen for the festival before their debut album, On the Rocks, was even recorded. "We didn't have anyone pushing us," Kamm says. "Somebody happened to really like us."
Even before recording On the Rocks at Young Avenue Sound, Kamm, vocalist/guitarist Matthew Oliver, keyboard player/vocalist Craig Schuster, bassist Rory Gardner, and percussionist Tony Walsh decided to devote themselves to the band full-time. They quit their day jobs, hired a manager, and hit the road. "We realized that there's no way to build anything [touring] Thursday to Saturday, so we lowered our living standards and committed ourselves to the band a hundred percent," Kamm explains.
Originally, Kamm handled booking and publicity duties, while the band wrote its own record contract, negotiating $3,000 off their studio fee by painting a room at Young Avenue Sound. Now, Kamm says, "[our manager] J.D. Dehart is the key to the whole operation. He's definitely the sixth member of Stout."
When the conversation shifts to their upcoming gig, Kamm is off and running. "We've got Jack Ashford [from The Funk Brothers] coming out with us," he says. "We really dig his vibe, and he gets a kick out of these white boys trying to lay it out."
Catch Stout -- and Jack Ashford -- at the Young Avenue Deli on Friday, June 25th. n
by ANDRIA LISLE