Artist: James Montjoy
James Montjoy is noteworthy for his Johnny Cash-style story songs, which are laced with danger befitting the road ballads first popularized with "Wanted Dead or Alive." The latter reference point is apropos as Montjoy's brooding charisma wouldn't have sounded out of place on those JBJ/Sambora ballads.
Tracks like "West Texas" and "Hero's Fate" recount stories of heroic figures battling forces beyond their control, while "Jen's Song" focuses on a significant other who inspires in the narrator the desire to do something more to show his feelings -- it includes the poetically direct, "Sometimes I feel you don't feel loved / So I put it in a song."
Montjoy folds in some nice instrumentation -- harmonica on "Hero's Fate" and strings for "Jen's Song" -- which adds considerable dimension to otherwise minimalist acoustic arrangements. The spoken word sections of "Acoustic Hoopla" make it a welcome addition to that line of bouncy, not-so-serious pop songs begat by Cake's "Sheep Go To Heaven." And the prominent harmony vocals of "Jen's Song" add a lighter, or at least more vulnerable, side to Montjoy that represents a sign-post marking a path for future exploration.
The standout track, "West Texas," opens with gorgeous acoustic strumming, joined by scene-stealing lead guitar flourish, which is accented here-and-there by a nice slide electric. Montjoy's narrator regales us with the fascinating tale of a road warrior who stops off at a bar in West Texas. He makes eyes at an attractive bar patron, which she reciprocates, but it is just her distracting him as her two confederates sneak up from behind, steal his gun, and put him out of commission. When he regains consciousness (with busted lips and a swollen eye), his hands are tied, and his gun is gone. I won't spoil the ending, but I'll just say (a) no one really ever escapes anything of consequence, and (b) there's always a smoking gun.
I could listen to these stories all day long, and I look forward to a great many more from James Montjoy. His is a fine tradition: that of epic storytellers.
*** The author of this review, Eric Scott, plays the barriles for the following band: http://youtu.be/tMS73-1kCr8