The Montgomery St. Band, a four-piece bluegrass outfit out of Fredericton, have just released their first full-length album: Quantum Internet. The release features ten songs, some familiar and some brand new, and delivers a healthy dose of all the banjo, guitar and mandolin breakdowns you could ask for.
Centering the focus primarily on bluegrass and that classic folk feel we hold so dear on the east coast, the band also mix old-time, jazz, jam-band, zydeco and psychedelic elements into their music. Fans of traditional bluegrass and first-time listeners alike can easily appreciate what these guys are bringing to the table—and stomp their feet to it.
The album’s lyrics cover several current topics that any east coaster can relate to. ‘Bluegrass on the Blue Sea’ and ‘For your Wage’ touch on environmental concerns with lyrics like “Ten years from now when the snow’s all gone, it’s February, got my swim trunks on. Everyone’s surfing when they used to ski, oh what a fantasy,” while ‘A Busker’s Lament’ discusses the struggles of life as a musician. And, in the current state of high, high power bills, this track also paints a nice picture of the wintertime struggle many New Brunswickers are currently facing, with lyrics like “I spent my last cent on power and rent, so it looks like I’m giving up wifi for lent” and, better yet, “so won’t someone please buy me a beer?”
Track ‘2018’ touches on environmental problems as well but mixes in other social problems, sending a healthy reminder for us enjoy the new year we’ve just begun while still remembering that the stakes are high in the current state of the world.
“People sometimes think of bluegrass as unsophisticated, cheesy or even funny but we’re trying to show that isn’t true. It’s a truly wild, beautiful form of music that takes a great deal of technical precision and years of dedication to pull off,” says guitarist Liam Keith-Jacques. And, if you’ve ever had the chance to see these guys live, you would know they are definitely putting in the hours—and it’s paying off.
Each of the Montgomery St. Band members has been playing music for approximately ten years. The songs on the album showcase the vast musical talents of all four members with smooth transitions in and out of instrumental breakdowns on guitar, mandolin, banjo and even dobro over top of a consistent, dynamic bassline on guitarron. The band also take turns performing the vocals for the tracks, often joining efforts to create pleasant harmonies, like in the song ‘A Busker’s Lament’—which is sung entirely a capella, in the style of a classic sea shanty.
The album was recorded live off the floor completely within the month of January. All songs are originals by the band except track eight, ‘Cherokee Shuffle,’ a traditional bluegrass classic. While the instrumentals never fall short for the entire album, the vocals occasionally feel unfitted to the music or unnatural to the singer—namely at the high and low ends of the spectrum, which are, we’re sure, the hardest to master. It is clear, however, in watching the band progress, that work is being put into polishing the vocals and harmonies and that they are always improving.
Perhaps the album’s most impressive feat is that it is highly enjoyable on its own without suffering from a lack of live-performance energy. The fast pace of the music and the heavy involvement of all four members at nearly all times carry the high energy delivered by the band during their live performances right to your speakers at home. (We still do recommend you go seem them live, though, for an even fuller experience.)
These guys are great at what they do, and when taking into consideration that six out of the ten tracks were also written just before or during production, we have to wonder just what they would be capable of if given more time to perfect their vocals and a higher budget for studio recording. I think we would like to find out.
The Montgomery St. Band: FACEBOOK