Â© 2005 Monti Amundson (737885372228)
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Johnny Winter and ZZ Top get drunk with Pink Floyd in the recording studio with the best possible results.
The Stevie Ray Vaughan box can be a tough one to break free from, but “Big Monti,” Portland guitarist Monti Amundson’s first CD in six years, proves that he’s his own man.
Amundson richly deserves comparison to the late Texas bluesrocker, thanks to a 440-volt guitar sound, telegraphic songwriting and fiery playing and singing. But the Stevie Ray box is confining because it’s crammed full of players who haven’t had an original idea since the flood – “Texas Flood,” that is.
As “Big Monti” proves, Amundson is not one of those. “I’m afraid this album might surprise people. It’s an honest record, but maybe a little too honest.” The first surprise is “My American Dreams,” which opens the new album and roisters out of the speakers riding a ringing “Revolver”-era Beatles riff: “What if you woke up tomorrow and everything was gone? / Living out of your SUV and told to move along”…
I’ve never written a political song before, but I’ve never been so disillusioned. I really think this country is going backwards,” Amundson said. His father, who was denied veteran’s benefits and faced ruinous medical bills, inspired the song. “You could do all the right things: serve your country, work hard, pay your taxes, and they could take it all away from you like they did to my father.”
Then there’s “Signs Of Life,” with it’s world-weary vocal, angelic chorus and a guitar line that ripples like pebbles tossed into a deep, dark well. It’s a tremendously affecting and effective piece of music, the unflinching testament of a 47-year-old artist who, 20 years younger and leaner, ruled stages around the region and throughout Europe. Not that he’s gone all arty on us; there are departures and surprising excursions into uncharted territory here, but the foundation, the crackling guitar solos, the urgent vocals, are still very much in evidence.Â -John Foyston