Randy Montana: Randy Montana

There’s more atmosphere and detail in the sound of Randy Montana than with your average pickup-truckload of his modern-country peers.

Randy Montana

Randy Montana

Label: Mercury Nashville
US Release Date: 2011-07-26
UK Release Date: Import

Randy Montana sings about leaving so much, it almost seems pathological. In doing so, he taps right into a throbbing vein of American restlessness, one tied in with idealistic dreams of success and freedom, of the open road, but also with a cynical, nothing-lasts-so-you-must-keep-moving mentality, like the protagonist of a hard-boiled detective novel. Of course, love is the main reason he’s leaving, or love itself is leaving. In his songs the man does a lot of leaving, but he gets left a lot, too. He runs from heartache, but also runs to keep moving, so memories and regret never reach him.

Love’s not the only reason the narrators of these songs leave. “It’s Gone” starts with the departure of his woman (“Mary”, like in “Born to Run”, an appropriate touch point), but then he leaves too, for work. Then the work leaves, so he moves again. There’s a lot of moving going on, chasing a sense of security that never comes. Then again, the character here seems pretty happy within his restlessness: “I’m just trying to make the most of what I have / It ain’t that pretty / But it ain’t half bad”. On “Goodbye Rain”, Montana sounds almost giddy with joy at a life of always moving on. It lifts heavy burdens off his chest. “Oh yeah,” he sings, “don’t it feel good to just run away?” It’s also a matter of running away from death. Time itself is always moving away -- life is trying to outrun it.

On “It Ain’t Hit Me Yet” he’s leaving without moving from his bar stool, running headlong into a drunken oblivion. The song’s freight-train pace emulates the speed of her leaving; the impact of it on his heart; the speed at which the whiskey is doing its work on him and the spirit of the “lonesome song” the bartender is playing. The same sort of escapist imagery shows up in an opposite context on “Reckless”. Again, time is leaving, so they’re trying to keep up, but this time, by having a reckless love affair. They’re striving to “make this night an open road”. The song’s softness fits the tone, like the rock ‘n’ roll beefiness of “It Ain’t Hit Me Yet” fits. Actually, the whole album has sturdiness to it, whatever the tone. There’s more atmosphere in the sound of Randy Montana than with your average pickup-truckload of his modern-country peers.

There’s intensity, too, in his singing and the music. It manifests itself in revved-up rock numbers and moody ballads, but also in details that match the songs themselves. For example, the ghostly backing vocals of Emmylou Harris right after Montana sings “holding on and trying to keep her is watching roses disappear”, on “Last Horse”. There’s detail in the lyrics alone, too, like how “Burn These Matches” tells of temptation and the ramifications of choices through the image of a phone number written on a matchbook, or the descriptions during the litany of women that is the opening number, “1,000 Faces”. That song offers just a simple, "I love you more than anyone else" sentiment, but it’s cleverly delivered by presenting a sea of faces, the women he’s seen around him on city streets, and what he thinks of them. That song resembles an observational singer-songwriter like David Baerwald more than it does the majority of today’s Nashville songwriting crowd. At the same time, he’s taking a sentiment and a sound (‘80s rock/pop flavored country) that definitely fits into the genre today. He elevates it well.

The album ends with two songs that resolve the always-moving theme. In the first is a man coming to terms with his capacity for regret. Instead of running away from it, loading his life with more new memories to push out the painful old ones, he’s making a space in “Back of My Heart” to keep those memories intact without dwelling on them. Where that song’s protagonist could be the man from previous songs, just with a more grown-up attitude, the final track, “Assembly Line”, presents another perspective entirely. It’s a look at a humble worker with a “diligent heart” who doesn’t mind his factory job. It’s very matter of fact, a person’s story – not pandering or trying to stand in for a political point. Like the rest of the album, it’s also about time, the “manufactured time” of a workday. “Clocked out about 5 p.m. / Wake up in the morning / Do it all again”, he sings at the end. To end an album of running away from reality, it’s a song about knowing exactly what you’re doing and being OK with that. That’s a confidence that Randy Montana and Randy Montana share.


To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less

From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

Keep reading... Show less

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.