Bonnie Montgomery
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Bonnie Montgomery

Little Rock, AR | Established. Jan 01, 2011 | INDIE

Little Rock, AR | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2011
Band Country Americana




"Bonnie Montgomery Named 2016 Ameripolitan Outlaw Female"

Arkansas native Bonnie Montgomery is the recipient of the Ameripolitan Outlaw Female Award for 2016. The awards were held Tuesday night in Austin Texas at the Paramount Theatre. The Ameripolitan organization was founded by Dale Watson as a way to showcase grassroots country musicians.

Montgomery will be performing with her band in and around Austin throughout February and will also be showcased during South By Southwest in March. She will be in studio this spring cutting her second full length album, followed by studio time recording her debut with The Wildflowers, a female country trio group (with fellow Arkansas songwriters Mandy McBryde and Amy Garland) spearheaded by HBO/Lionsgate producer Chris Spencer.

Also a classically trained singer and composer, Montgomery will premiere her opera, Billy Blythe, about the childhood of Bill Clinton on April 8-10 with Opera Ithaca in Ithaca, New York. - Nightflying

"Album Review - Bonnie Montgomery"

Fans of traditional country music rejoice! Here we have an album full of fiddles, steel guitars, outlaw songs of rambling ways and honky-tonk jams. Arkansas native and opera singer Bonnie Montgomery combines a collection of songs from past EPs with some new material to bring this strong studio debut to life. Many of the tracks feature sharp songwriting with great metaphors and heart breaking stories accompanied by fresh melodies and an impressive vocal delivery. Bonnie is a skilled singer with a wide singing range, comfortably hitting high notes and bringing a low drawled voice on the album’s darker tracks.

The Best Songs on the Album

Bonnie has several strong tracks on this record. “Nashville” is an upbeat song driven by a steel guitar with an acoustic guitar and drum beat filling in, giving it a wonderful honky-tonk feel. This song’s strength though, is in her lyrics. She personifies the city, Nashville, as a man with whom she’s fed up with, but you get a sense that it goes a little deeper. Lines like “You have taken some of my joy” and “Lord knows one girl just can’t always win” seem to imply that this might be more of a song protesting Music Row and the current state of mainstream country music. She describes the old Nashville, and places and sounds she’ll miss when she leaves hoping it’ll be there again when she decides to return. However one interprets the song’s meaning, it’s a great song, with strong, vividly descriptive lyrics that any fan of country music will enjoy. The other big track is “Take Me or Leave Me”, a dark track with a fiddle and a repeated heavy acoustic strum mixed with a banjo. On the track, Bonnie sings as an outlaw on the run from the authorities. The style of the song has shades of “Highway Man,” and I could envision someone like Johnny Cash or Waylon Jennings on the track with it sounding just as natural as Bonnie’s vocals. This is the track where she really sets herself apart from other traditional women of country and even her contemporaries.

The Worst Song on the Album

The last track, “But I Won’t,” doesn’t offer a lot lyrically. It’s a strong honky-tonk song, one that could easily encourage an entire crowd to two-step along while performed live. The lyrics are repetitive and there isn’t much variation in the guitars and drums as the song progresses, which, ironically make the song seem dragging, even though it’s the shortest of the ten cuts on this record.

The Rest of the Album

Themes of the album are traditional country themes: loss, regret, failed relationships, dark content and heartbreaking stories that Bonnie Montgomery sells effectively with her vocals. “Black County” finds Bonnie in the midst of an internal struggle as she has left her man to head west and find herself. She regrets the action because this life out west isn’t as simple and polished. “Joy” has a strong and unique electric guitar and banjo mix that kick off the track and carries throughout the autobiographical song of a mountain man from a big family. She sings the song from the point of view of this man and nails it. A recurring theme throughout many of these tracks is Bonnie putting herself at the center of each story and focusing on her thoughts and commentary on the situation. She wears many hats: as a daughter trying to remain optimistic while her dad is on the death-bed (“Daddy’s”), an orphaned daughter finding redemption and forgiveness through her lonely life journey (“Blood from a Turnip”) and a woman who can’t seem to get away from her man despite knowing they don’t work together (“Lost At Sea”). She’s convincing in every story and situation.

Overall Thoughts

This album would fit right in if it was released forty years ago in 1974. It’s a timeless collection of ten songs that Bonnie Montgomery has put together. There’s a rough edge to the production that compliments the darker nature in the material. A unique, gifted singer, great musical melodies and deep songwriting is what sets Bonnie apart from many of the females in country music’s rich history. Content-wise, Bonnie Montgomery can go toe-to-toe with some of country’s famous male outlaws. This album proves that Montgomery isn’t your average woman in country. She’s not here as a feminist singing for men to respect her; she’s not singing about straying from her mama’s advice or ways. Bonnie Montgomery is here telling country music that she is strong-willed and has a true outlaw attitude. Nashville take notice. Here is yet another impressive output from an independent solo female artist that deserves to be heard.

Grade: 9/10 - Country Perspective

"Bubba Buffa"

Bubba Buffa

Opera composers seldom meet their title characters, but that’s what happened to Bonnie Montgomery one afternoon in 2009, in the lobby of the Capital Hotel in Little Rock, Arkansas. Montgomery is the composer of “Billy Blythe,” a folk opera about the adolescence of Bill Clinton, as he documented it in his 2004 memoir, “My Life.” (Clinton was Billy Blythe until he took the name of his stepfather, Roger Clinton, at the age of sixteen.) “I told him about it really quickly,” Montgomery said the other day. “He said something along the lines of ‘Best of luck with that,’ and moved on.”

Montgomery, dressed in a blue gingham dress and wearing cowboy boots, had just arrived in Manhattan after a twenty-hour drive from Little Rock, to supervise the final preparations for the opera’s début, at the Medicine Show Theatre, on Fifty-second Street. Zachary James, the director, had reserved space in a rent-by-the-hour rehearsal studio in the theatre district, so that Montgomery could get acquainted with Jessica Bowers, a mezzo-soprano, who would be singing the role of Clinton’s mother, Virginia, and Alex Krasser, a swarthy twenty-four-year-old, who would be the show’s Billy.

The group began to quiz Montgomery, who is thirty-one, on her creative intentions. She grabbed a handful of her brown hair and knotted it at her neck and tapped the toe of one of her boots. She cited a passage from “My Life,” about young Bill and Virginia. “When I could get up early enough,” Clinton writes, “I loved sitting on the floor of the bathroom and watching her put makeup on that beautiful face.” The ritual, Clinton adds, “took a while, partly because she had no eyebrows.”

“That was the first inspiration for writing an opera,” Montgomery said. “I could just see him lying there with a sax, looking up at her, singing a really melodious aria and putting on her makeup.”

Bowers, a striking woman with creamy skin and velvety black hair, asked for notes on the number, “Virginia’s Aria / The Makeup Song.” “It’s interesting, because the music is really, really sexy,” she said. “But, then, it’s a conversation with my son. The song could be a slinking-across-the-piano, cabaret kind of thing. I’m just trying to figure out how not to be sexy around my son.”

Montgomery fished in her décolletage and produced a tube of coral lipstick, which she applied to her mouth. “People have said that’s like an Oedipal scene,” she said. “There’s a book on the psychology of Bill Clinton, and how the women he’s attracted to remind him of his mother.”

“It’s funny you would say that,” Bowers replied. “Someone once told me I look like Monica Lewinsky.”

“I have a question,” Krasser interjected. “This is about the young Bill Clinton, and the choice to make him a bass baritone.”

“He was a large boy at fourteen,” Montgomery said. “He was saddled with a lot of responsibility at that age. We imagined that his voice had changed by then.”

“It definitely adds to the good-old-boy sensibility,” James said.

James asked Bowers to sing “Virginia’s Aria.” Bowers drew a music stand toward her, and sang of little Billy fetching his mother’s morning coffee, brewed as “thick as syrup.” As Bowers sang, Montgomery closed her eyes and swayed in her seat.

When the song was over, Montgomery said, “I don’t want to seem like a redneck or a lunatic, over here crying, but you guys are absolutely splendid.” She turned to Bowers. “But can you say suhr-up?”

“What did I say? See-rup?” Bowers asked.

Over all, Montgomery said that the performers should heed the score’s notation of molto ritardando: don’t rush. “Down in Arkansas, we talk slower and we drive slower. Just take your own time.”

“I always feel like I’m wallowing,” Bowers said. “I’m afraid I’m going to make the opera feel like it’s five hours long.”

“Go with that,” Montgomery said.

Most of “Billy Blythe” is drawn from verifiable Clintonalia. For instance, the song “High Noon” depicts Billy swaggering away from a movie theatre after seeing what Clinton later called his favorite film. Only “The Melon Scene,” in which Billy and his grandfather swap tall tales about oversized watermelons, is fictional. The song shows the grandfather teaching Billy to use metaphor and become a storyteller.

“We interpreted that as his first stump speech,” James said.

“Oh, that’s fascinating,” Montgomery said. “I’m glad y’all saw that. I’m assuming it probably happened. I mean, melons were a big part of the culture. They still are!”

James excused himself to make his call time for “The Addams Family,” in which he plays the role of Lurch. Jonathan Rose, the production’s musical director, suggested that the group run through the opera’s final scene, a gauzy number in which Billy, having vanquished his menacing stepfather, helps his mother pack pecans and strawberries for a picnic.

“Quick question before we start,” Krasser said. “Puh-kan, or puh-kahn?”

“Puh-kahn,” Montgomery said. “Definitely puh-kahn.” ♦ - New Yorker

"Bonnie Montgomery and her Musical Balancing Act"


When Bonnie Montgomery strode onto stage wearing polka dots and a shy smile, the crowd in Portland’s Alberta Rose Theater clapped politely. After she’d sung and strummed a couple songs, backed by some tasty guitar twang and a steady standup bass, the mood shifted. Montgomery’s music sent listeners through time to the era of classic country, alongside Patsy, Loretta, and the Hanks. The applause was louder, and there were hoots and hollers between songs. Not bad for a girl from a small town in Arkansas. - No Depression

"Blythe Spirit"

Bill Clinton: the opera
Blythe spirit

The former president in a new guise

Nov 25th 2010 | Little rock | From the print edition
NO OTHER speaker, not even Barack Obama himself, was in as much demand as Bill Clinton on the Democratic campaign trail for this year's mid-terms, a testament to the affection in which the 42nd president is still held. Mr Clinton, having inspired a novel, a film in which he was played by John Travolta and countless political tracts, is now the subject of an opera that opened on November 19th in Little Rock, where he lived while he was Arkansas's governor.

“Billy Blythe”—the brainchild of two Arkansas natives, Bonnie Montgomery and Britt Barber—is set on a single day in the Southern life of a teenaged Clinton in the Arkansas town of Hot Springs, where he grew up. It highlights the tribulations that shaped the future occupant of the White House, living with an abusive and alcoholic stepfather and a decidedly colourful mother.

Ms Montgomery, the composer, and Ms Barber, the opera's librettist who now lives in Atlanta, spent four years on the work. Ms Montgomery, a classically trained musician who also fronts a country-and-western band, was inspired to write the opera after reading Mr Clinton's autobiography. She was especially stirred, she says, by a passage in which Mr Clinton wrote about watching his mother, Virginia, apply her make-up for a night out while smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee.

The creators have turned the former president's life into something more familiar to a fan of Tennessee Williams than of “The West Wing”. The opera gets its title from Mr Clinton's birth surname, which he went by until taking his stepfather's name as a teenager. Scenes include a steamy rendezvous between Clinton's stepfather Roger Clinton and Virginia, she wearing lingerie while singing about their torrid romance. Virginia also sings an aria with the young Clinton about his father, William Blythe, who died before Mr Clinton was born. The opera features a tableau following big wins at the horse races and a night of domestic drama, complete with gunfire, in the Clinton household. What need, with all that going on, for interns?

Ms Montgomery says she wants to make opera less stodgy and more accessible to a generation of people who may have never attended one before. She chose an old ballroom in downtown Little Rock for the premiere rather than a formal auditorium. An after-party in a local pub, the White Water Tavern, included a racier, more relaxed second performance. Less-lavish opera performed in pubs to a younger crowd is already big in London, thanks to groups like OperaUpClose. And why not? The first performance of an English opera was given in a room at the Smithfield home of Sir William Davenant in 1656. - The Economist


Bonnie Montgomery: Self-Titled, Full Length Album (2014)
Bonnie Montgomery: Joy, EP (2013)
Bonnie Montgomery: Cruel, EP (2012)
Bonnie Montgomery: Tobacco Farmer, Single (2012)
Bonnie Montgomery: Live at the Cake Shop, Full Length Album (2011)



A true and multi-faceted artist in a sea of homogony, Arkansas born and bred Bonnie Montgomery has an artistic vision that transcends cliche and genre.

 Following the release of EPs “Cruel” (2012) and “Joy” (2013), Montgomery released her self-titled LP in Decemger 2014 on Nathan Howdeshell's (of Gossip) Portland/Arkansas label Fast Weapons.  

 Bonnie's southern debut album showcases her powerful operatic voice while her music blends elements of classic country with spaghetti western and traditional Ozark folk music.  Backed by a rowdy, virtuosic hillbilly band, Bonnie has toured on her recent album extensively throughout the U.S.  The album's critical acclaim alongside her wild and law-less live performances have earned a nomination for Outlaw Female at the Third Annual Ameripolitan Awards hosted in February 2016 in Austin, TX. 

 A classically trained singer whose southern roots run deep, Montgomery has taken her raucous, high-art spin on golden-era country/western music through the U.S. and Europe, sharing the stage with Gossip, Shovels and Rope, Robert Ellis, Hayes Carll, Billy Jo Shaver, Turnpike Troubadours, Pokey LaFarge, Wayne “the Train” Hancock, Joe Ely, Mike and the Moonpies, Dale Watson and Sturgill Simpson, among others.

 Bonnie’s composition of the modern folk opera “Billy Blythe”, about the childhood of Bill Clinton, previewed in New York, and has earned her the attention of publications such as The New Yorker, The Economist, The Huffington Post and the London Daily Telegraph.  The opera will have its official world premiere by Opera Ithaca in April 2016 in Ithaca, NY.  

Recent west coast and upcoming southern tour dates will feature her supercharged Arkansas/Austin-based band.  

Band Members