The Montgomerys: First World Blues


first world blues 1The Montgomerys, 2020

Produced by: Barry Marshall

Website: Peter Montgomery Music

Notable Quote: “And I don’t know why I loved you like I did but there’s no room in my sandbox for another screwed up kid and we’ve grown too old and I really don’t want to play, just go away!” — Peter Montgomery, “Elf on a Shelf”


My quick 2 cents: Cheeky lyrics expressing mature themes, crisp instrumentation backing punchy Elliot Easton solos, and pop-rock sensibilities balanced with whimsical ballads … this album is an audible joyride. Buy it!

The full scoop: I have a hard time pinpointing exactly what it is about this album that is so addictive. It’s kind of like spending a day with a rascally 12-year-old boy who keeps you on your toes and makes you burst out laughing when you’re trying to be stern, but who is also somehow an old soul with an understanding of life that goes much deeper than you anticipated. You almost can’t take him seriously, and you wouldn’t, if it weren’t for the way he taps into your inner feelings.

First World Blues (FWB) is the third album by The Montgomerys, a Boston-based band made up of founder Peter Montgomery on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, lead guitarist Tony Savarino, Mark Nigro on bass, and drummer Mike Levesque. This record features Barry Marshall in the producer’s chair, as well as special guest Elliot Easton of The Cars sitting in on the lion’s share of lead guitar duties.

Born and raised in Scituate, Massachusetts, it took Peter some time to find his niche in the music world. Peter openly admits that he was – and is – a bit of a handful. Dyslexia, struggles with ADD, and a general lack of maturity dictated his early years, but his irreverent sense of humor kept him afloat. As a teen, Peter found songwriting to be an outlet, a way to process his emotional highs and lows. Though he feels like his inceptive efforts lacked an understanding of the importance of words, he would eventually steer his talent into a style of expression that combined the best of his personality with cathartic output. In other words, smart-ass songs that gave him a better handle on life.

And the funny thing is, having had the privilege of speaking extensively with Peter, I recognize that these songs on FWB are exactly him: boyishly charming, off-the-cuff funny, and laced with relentless transparency and intuition.

His 15-year run with his popular Boston band The Irresponsibles brought him within a stone’s throw of hitting the big time: in 1996 they won Musician Magazine’s Best Unsigned Band contest and landed a recording contract with the legendary frontman of King Crimson, Adrian Belew. They even toured the country opening for Belew in 1999 but they could never quite bust through to the next level.

Peter let go of that band and took a brief hiatus, and then formed The Montgomerys around 2004. With time and experience his writing has taken a subtle turn. It is still dressed with his signature self-deprecating humor and cheeky honesty, but now there is a sharper intelligence behind his lyrics, a greater sense of purpose born from taking some hard knocks.

Clocking in at only 33 minutes, this 12-song album wastes no time on drawn out noodling; it throws its songs out like candy at a parade. Peter jumps into every track with boyish energy and vocal enthusiasm. First World Blues bursts off the line with “Back for More,” a bright, danceable rock tune about the hopeless (and helpless) pursuit of love. It easily hooks you with its jaunty chorus and some badass Elliot Easton guitar work.

In fact, let me just say right now that every track that Elliot Easton plays on* is rippled with stylish guitar riffs and flourishes, and the tasty solos we always anticipate from this legendary Rock and Roll Hall-of-Famer.

peter barry elliot cropped 2
Peter Montgomery, Barry Marshall, and Elliot Easton in the studio, 2019. Photo courtesy of Barry Marshall; shared with permission.

“Drink That Wine” follows, an oddly inspirational anthem with sixties-ish backing vocals and subtle organ accompaniment, this time with Paul Santo (Aerosmith) crafting the perfect guitar solo and burning it up on the outro.

The thing is, throughout the album there’s this delicious juxtaposition of sunny music and gritty lyrics. Peter writes with the honest stream of consciousness of an adolescent, but without the shortsightedness of teenage angst. His themes are definitely relatable to adults: a little heartbreaking, sometimes poignant, with a hint of darkness. But it’s not an emotional drag. His turn of phrase is delightfully surprising, and even when he’s singing about painful things, there’s always this little edge to his voice that assures you he can laugh it off at the end of the day.

“Hostile Waters” illustrates this perfectly. You’ve got this cheerful ukulele melody on top of a plucky bass line, and that sweet child’s voice at the beginning (which belongs to Peter’s younger son, by the way). So cute, right? And yet, the song is really a moving admonition to adults not to jettison their children in the midst of a messy break up.

“Hole in My Roof” is like that, too. I immediately loved the whimsical lullaby melody, but it about broke my heart when I realized he was lamenting the tale of someone who sacrificed a loving relationship in pursuit of his own personal interests.

My favorite song is “Elf on a Shelf.” The theme of a friendship turned dysfunctional is so relatable. Peter works through the situation with humorous frustration and audacious lyrics.  The snappy pop melody invites you to sing along, and somehow you find the outlet for your own heightened emotions by belting out the lyrics. At least, I do!

There’s a charming immaturity to the whole album. The more I listen to it, the more I love it. You’ve just got to check it out! You can purchase the album digitally through Amazon and iTunes, or shoot producer Barry Marshall a note through Messenger or send him an email (barry_marshall@emerson.edu) to buy a physical CD. Also, find Peter Montgomery on Facebook to learn more about his musical projects.

Full album playlist:

* Elliot Easton plays on all of the tracks except “Drink That Wine” and “Hole in My Roof”

Steve Rodgers: Head Up High


steverodgers2

Steve Rodgers, 2017

Produced by: Ken Nelson

Website: https://steverodgersmusic.com/

Notable Quote: “So many times I wanted to run away, so many times I couldn’t even find my way.  But there’s a voice inside of my heart, says be brave, be brave and walk on.” — Steve Rodgers, “Walk On”


My quick 2 cents:  In our current musical landscape riddled with autotune and shallow lyrics, Steve Rodgers’ album is refreshing, meaningful, and bursting with genuine talent. Buy it!

The full scoop:  Earlier this spring I was scrolling Facebook and came across a post by David Spero for “Something About You” by Steve Rodgers (link below). Both the song and the artist were new to me, but that title had me curious, so I clicked on it. As soon as I heard the first few notes Steve sang I thought, “That voice… it sounds kind of familiar… last name Rodgers… wait a minute!”

Within seconds I confirmed that Steve is, indeed, the son of iconic rock vocalist Paul Rodgers (Free, Bad Company), but don’t be misled; he is not a half-talent trying to ride the coattails of his famous father. Steve’s voice is unique, moving, and absolutely addictive, and with his 2017 debut album, Head Up High, he proves unequivocally that he can stand strong in the musical arena on his own two feet.

I ordered the CD immediately.Image result for head up high steve rodgers

Born in 1972, and having soaked up incredible amounts of artistic influence sitting on his daddy’s knee, Steve mastered both the piano and guitar at a young age. He started writing his own songs when he was 14 years old, and by 17 he was in his own band, making albums and touring with a solid measure of success. He eventually decided to pursue a solo career, sharing the stage with acts like Joe Perry, Joe Walsh, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and (of course) Bad Company.

Having high connections through Paul didn’t hurt, but Steve’s style and sound are nearly opposite of his dad’s classic rock leanings, and fans who expect to hear a carbon copy might be a bit surprised. There is that genetic similarity visually and vocally, but Steve soars off in his own direction. His songs have more of a contemporary pop flavor, laced with soul and performed with abundant passion.

And really, it’s his voice… that voice! It’s vibrant and magical, and he wields it perfectly without a bunch of unnecessary showboating; more of a minimalist auditory display that penetrates the heart without growing wearisome. I’m always left wanting to hear more.

Frankly, I think this album is brilliant. Every track is a stepping stone in what seems to be a very personal journey, and listening through from beginning to end sweeps me along with Steve as he makes his way. His songwriting is fantastic, with lyrics that speak of acceptance, bravery, and hope. The music is beautiful and perfectly suited as a backdrop for Steve’s powerful voice, like a rustic wooden fence for the ivy of Steve’s vocals to wend their way around, creating a colorful vision of peace, refreshment and solitude.

The opening song, “I Will Grow,” is introspective and relatable. It grabs you right in the heart of your grown-up self and plants you firmly in an emotional mindset. But before you assume that the whole album is going to cause your heart to ache, Steve launches into the inspiring title track, “Head Up High,” an irresistible, upbeat pep talk that my 16-year-old daughter loves to belt out. And from there he uses a little blues, a little folk, and a lot of heart to share his story, track by track.

I could gush over every single song, but I’ll just mention a couple more of my favorites. “Something About You” rolls out a poignant ribbon of longing and confusion that still gets me every time I hear it. On the other end of the spectrum, “Your Eyes” is a whimsical love song featuring Steve playing a sunny ukulele melody accompanied by his jaunty vocals. “So High” is another happy ballad, hopeful and warm, while “Messed Up” brings a bit of a funky vibe to an uplifting perspective shift.

In spite of the ethereal feelings I have about his music, there is just something so efficient about Steve’s style. He has a message to deliver and he’s not interested in wasting any time – or words – in doing it. When he’s said what he wanted to say the song ends and you are changed,  left holding onto an emotional gem. I love that, since I’ve never been a big fan of dragging things out.

A terrific example of that is “Walk On.” Simple and straightforward, the lyrics encourage me in the middle of the dark, like Steve slipping his hand in mine and helping me move forward. Even though it clocks in at just under two and a half minutes, it’s enough. I feel strengthened somehow. Relatively short, and yet perfectly complete.

As of this writing, I believe Steve is wrapping up his summer tour by performing select shows in the US and UK, some as the headliner and some supporting Bad Company. If you have the opportunity to see him live, jump on it! In the meantime, do yourself a favor and snap up this album. It will restore your faith in today’s music scene.