Big Monti

by Big Monti Amundson

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about

BIG MONTI is part of a 4-CD set called "The Songwriter" but is available separately as well.

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It's like this: One day in Portland I ran into Billy Triplett on the street. He was on his way to The Roseland where he was mixing a band that night. He'd been living in Orange County and I hadn't seen him in awhile. He didn't look very good and come to find out his sister had just died. So we got together the next day to do some catching-up.

I'd just lost somebody too and we were both feeling finite - like we should do something with the time we had left. There were some hard feelings left over from the last project we did together (The Obvious Rock) and we agreed it was time for getting over it.

So we decided to make another record together - make things right. Basic tracks were recorded at my house. Then I'd fly down to Billy's to do some overdubs. There was no big rush. My career had been stalled for some time now and there weren't any record companies beating down my door.

Billy was having a hard time of it and I offered him a place to stay until he got back on his feet again. He moved in and we went to work. Still no rush, no pressure. The only problem is Billy and I both got a thing for alcohol.

To say that Billy Triplett can drink a lot is a spectacular understatement. In Amsterdam I watched him drink The Hell's Angels (Holland Chapter) under the table in their own club. With me it's drinking or not drinking. I'm not a glass of wine for dinner kind of guy. I'm a fifth of vodka kind of guy. Billy likes to party - I just don't want to feel anything. Sometimes we're not so good together.

Billy had been living with me for several months when he learned of his brother's death. Man, I don't know what's going on in the universe to rain down so much pain on one man - but he snapped. A couple days later he moved out and I didn't see him again for months.

I was fighting demons of my own so I put the recording project on the shelf. For months I didn't even want to think about it. One night I rented a movie called "Heart of Darkness", a movie about the making of the movie "Apocalypse Now". I strongly recommend this movie to anyone who is struggling with an artistic endeavor of any kind. It gave me the courage to dust the tapes off and get back to work.

Enter Steve Branson. Billy, Steve and I go way back and it was an obvious choice to have Steve help me finish the album. He wasn't happy with the sound quality of the vocals so we did them all over again. You singers out there know how much work is involved to record vocals for an entire album. Well, imagine doing it twice. There was a lot of work to do and it took several months to finish.

Years later? I love this album. This is by far my favorite body of work - and I won't spend another second thinking about how hard it was to make. It doesn't matter now. I just like the fact that this album exists.

-Big Monti

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Monti Amundson - Big Monti

The Stevie Ray Vaughan box can be a tough one to break free from, but "Big Monti," Portland guitarist Monti Amundson's first CD in five years, proves that he's his own man.

Amundson richly deserves comparison to the late Texas bluesrocker, thanks to a 440-volt guitar sound, telegraphic songwriting and fiery playing and singing. But the Stevie Ray box is confining because it's crammed full of players who haven't had an original idea since the flood - "Texas Flood," that is.

As "Big Monti" proves, Amundson is not one of those. "I'm afraid this album might surprise people. It's an honest record, but maybe a little too honest." The first surprise is "My American Dreams," which opens the new album and roisters out of the speakers riding a ringing "Revolver"-era Beatles riff: "What if you woke up tomorrow and everything was gone? / Living out of your SUV and told to move along"...

I've never written a political song before, but I've never been so disillusioned. I really think this country is going backwards," Amundson said. His father, who was denied veteran's benefits and faced ruinous medical bills, inspired the song. "You could do all the right things: serve your country, work hard, pay your taxes, and they could take it all away from you like they did to my father."

Then there's "Signs Of Life," with it's world-weary vocal, angelic chorus and a guitar line that ripples like pebbles tossed into a deep, dark well. It's a tremendously affecting and effective piece of music, the unflinching testament of a 47-year-old artist who, 20 years younger and leaner, ruled stages around the region and throughout Europe. Not that he's gone all arty on us; there are departures and surprising excursions into uncharted territory here, but the foundation, the crackling guitar solos, the urgent vocals, are still very much in evidence.

-John Foyston, The Oregonian

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With the album, “Big Monti”, Monti Amundson has achieved something that I would have thought unlikely or perhaps even impossible…a new statement in American Blues.

Yes, there are echoes of great rock and blues masters that came before him present in these tracks, but what sets Monti’s tracks apart from both his predecessors and contemporaries alike is that he has somehow made them his own with his lyrics, his incendiary guitar, his humor and his honest articulation…there is no artifice here, no attempt to sound like anyone else or any particular allusion to a favorite artist.

The influences on this music are plain, but they do not render it derivative, they merely inform and place into context the artist’s statement. This is not strictly a “blues” record, per se. This is, in my opinion, a blues oriented Rock album, and a damn good one at that. It isn’t to say that there is no blues here. Songs like “Her Suitcase” give a unique world-spanning perspective on loss in the form of Tex-mex blues and “Six Shots” seems ambivalent as to whether the singer plans to drink himself to death or blow his brains out. These are heart-rending tributes to lost love, and display the fundamental push toward the blues that is evident in everything done by Big Monti.

There is also some humor evident in this context, with “Dirt Brown Duplex” taking the blues into the region of 20-something-angst. This isn’t ‘My Baby Done Left Me’ music…its something else altogether.

The record goes way beyond the blues in other aspects; there are indications here of influences that veer toward the progressive, without carrying all that top-heavy weight, but are instead well integrated into the pure blues-rock statement ultimately presented. “Signs of Life” with which Monti shares a writing credit in the name of Noel Trusty, carries a spooky, stratospheric, layered guitar hook reminiscent of both Hendrix and Pink Floyd and a mean, acid-blues telephone-EQ talking vocal, evincing a sensation of dread and loss.

The guitars on this album, all played by Monti, are raw and driven, with Stratocaster tones that range from sweetly introspective blues birdsong to over the top “brown” tones that would cause Eddie Van Halen to divorce his wife (oh yeah…never mind), and slide guitar chops that tend to pick up where Johnny Winter left (is leaving) off. Be prepared to hear what a Strat through a Marshall stack is really capable of in your sickest dreams.

The bass, drums and sparsely-utilized keys all do yeoman service to the original music here, and add very well to these recordings without attempting to carve their own path. In particular, the drums played by Portland drummer Cory Burden are solid and powerful, with well-placed fills, and are well-recorded and positioned in the mix. Also bearing mention is the outstanding and soulful blues-harp work on the song “Six Shots”.

Monti has plainly paid his dues, as evidenced by his ability to communicate the requisite “suffering” generally required of ‘blues’ artists if they are to be taken seriously. He has also amply displayed the eclectic nature of his musical influences, and his evident attention not only to the blues, but to great music in general, be it rock, blues, jazz, et al, and in the final analysis, Monti has created an ultimate act of communication in having distilled lifelong musical and life experiences into musical statements that are uniquely his.

This record is fresh, strident, and a must-listen for any fan of blues-rock.

-Max Ferry

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credits

released April 1, 2005

Produced by Monti Amundson
Recorded in Portland, Oregon by Billy Triplett
Recorded, mixed and Mastered by Steve Branson at Buzz Klickenpop Digital Recording
Graphic design by Cory Burden at Cedar House Media
Photo of Monti Amundson by Ross Hamilton
Photo of Willy and Cory by Jayson Pakulak


Monti Amundson - Guitar and Vocals on all tracks
Cory Burden - Drums on all tracks except 6
Louie Samora - Drums on track 6
Stan Becraft - Bass on tracks 1,8,9,10
Willy Barber - Bass on tracks 2,4,7
Johnny Wilmont - Bass on tracks 3,5,6,11 and Organ on tracks 1,9
D.K. Stewart - Piano on tracks 6,8
Andy Strange - Harp on track 11

All songs written by Monti Amundson except:
My American Dreams - Amundson/Mason
Signs Of Life - Amundson/Trusty

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Track Name: My American Dreams
My American Dreams

I was only seventeen
When they took my daddy’s farm
Workin’ day and night
Had finally lost its charm
No irrigation pipes to move
No fences to mend on our island in the stream
‘Cause that day they shot holes
in my American dream

I been a long time on the road
Just playin’ in a rock n roll band
I been so many places man
It helps me understand
In their eyes a reflection
Of a once great nation it seems
Where all have lost sight
of their American dreams
Where all have lost sight

Of their American dreams

Are you feeling all right
I’m not feeling to good myself
Are you feeling all right
I’m not feeling to good myself

What if you woke up tomorrow
And everything was gone
Living out of your SUV
And told to move along
We all want the good life
But brother to what extreme
There begin to be holes
in the American dream

Holes turn into canyons
In my American dreams
Track Name: You Make A Bad Thing Worse
You Make A Bad Thing Worse

You know sometimes I wonder
What kind of fool am I
To listen to a word you say
When all you do is lie
Last time we were together
You got into a jam
You left me there in Paris
Now I see you here in Amsterdam

How low must we go
Why not remove this curse
You make a bad thing worse
You make it evil and a sin
You make a bad thing worse
I don’t know where to begin

You took my car out drinking
You left the keys inside
And sure enough some foolish kids
They took it for a ride
But that ride don’t compare
The one I’m on with you
Why am I surprised
At anything you do

Every time I come home early
I find you with another man
You blow smoke right in my face
Try to get me raise my hand
Now you’re here like nothin’s happened
You sure do got your nerve
You say you’ll take me back
But it’s more than I deserve
Track Name: Dirt Brown Duplex
Dirt Brown Duplex

Sittin’ on the front porch of my Oregon City
Dirt brown duplex my stepfather owns
It come to me man it was time for getting’ over it
Time for leaving everything, everything I know

I was paralyzed but I came around
Don’t know if it’s me or this here town

Sittin’ in my Ford O-conoline turnin’ the ignition
I hope it fires into action sometime today
It come to me that I, I might do better
To set the thing on fire and just walk away

Sittin’ at the station of the man who wears the star
Dirt brown uniform and you can trust your car
But you can’t trust time to slow things down
Better get some highway and clear out of town
Track Name: Go On Living Blues
Go On Living Blues

Never again lord will I hold my baby all night long
Never again lord will I hold my baby all night long
Living just don’t mean nothin’ ever since my baby gone

Lord it come to me this morning my whole life is a lie
Do I jump into the river, man - I can’t decide
Never again lord will I hold my baby all night long
Living just don’t mean nothin’ ever since my baby’s gone

Never again lord will I have a woman by my side
Never again lord will I have a woman by my side
Lord I swear I won’t start drinkin’
But go on livin’ - I can’t decide
Track Name: Still Got Her Suitcase
Still Got Her Suitcase

I still got her suitcase
It’s been all around the world
I still got her suitcase
It’s been all around the world
I got a sticker for every country
I just don’t got the girl

I still got her suitcase
Why I aint got a clue
I still got her suitcase
Why I aint got a clue
On the bus and on the plane
I just check it right on through

I still got her suitcase
It just sits there by the door
I still got her suitcase
It just sits there by door
It reminds me to keep on moving
She don’t love me anymore
Track Name: When You Love Somebody
When You Love Somebody

I’m the guy walkin’ down the street
I smile at everybody that I meet
I wonder just how many, how many been here too
When you love somebody
When you love somebody
When you love somebody and they don’t love you

I’m the guy trottin’ ‘round the globe
Sometimes I feel a little bit like Job
I’ve had every kind of tribulation a man can go through
When you love somebody
When you love somebody
When you love somebody and they don’t love you

What can you do can you do
What can you do can you do
When you love somebody and they don’t love you

I’m the guy breezes into town
I play the fool and I act the clown
I wonder how much longer before I’m through
When you love somebody
When you love somebody
When you love somebody and they don’t love you

What can you do can you do
What can you do can you do
When you love somebody and they don’t love you
Track Name: Begging For Your Arms
Begging For Your Arms

Why must I be brought so low
Why
You said goodbye to me a million years ago
You said that you would always be there
I turned away I said I just don’t care

Here I am
I’m begging for your arms again

Why must I be brought so low
Why
Out on the street when it’s ten below
You said that you would always be there
To lift me up from my despair
Track Name: Red Hot Wire
Red Hot Wire

She’s got a red hot wire
And sparks fly
Regular four alarm fire
She’s so fine
She is my heart’s desire
Baby I would die
She got a red hot wire
Red hot wire

She’s like a loaded gun
I’m staring down the barrel
She’s nitroglycerin
One has to be careful
‘Cause any sudden moves
Baby we gonna lose
She’s got a red hot wire
Red hot wire

It was only yesterday she killed me with her smile
Now she want to put my love on trial
You can see the smoke a risin’ a mile away
‘Specially when there’s hell to pay

She’s got my buttons all marked and labeled
It aint coincidence I seem so unstable
It is by her design
Baby I aint lying

My nervous system is in disrepair
She treat my body like I got a spare
My ozone layer gotta gigantic hole
She burnin’ me down inside my soul
Track Name: Not A Day Goes By
Not A Day Goes By

Not a day goes by
Where I don’t spend some time in outer space
One part psycho –history
Part mental case
If my girlfriend tries to call
I may not hear the phone
And if I did there is a chance
She’s talking to my clone

That’s all right
Baby that’s all right
Not a day goes by where I don’t lose these blues and fly
So high

Not a day goes by
Where I don’t rocket from the atmosphere
I’m not talkin’ ‘bout substances
My mind’s completely clear
That’s not to say the snare won’t melt
Or I won’t go insane
In fact I, I woke up this morning with a positronic brain

Not a day goes by
Where I don’t orbit ‘round a distant sun
My hyperspace experience
Is not to be outdone
So if you’ve come unannounced
And you’re knocking at my door
I might be on Trantor baby
I never know for sure
Track Name: Signs Of Life
Signs Of Life

I’ve stepped over souls
On the street passed out
It could be you or me
But that’s not what I’m talkin’ about
I’m talkin’ about things that you don’t get taught
You move your hand when the fire’s hot

I just want to roll with you tonight
When I’m with you I’m a deer in your headlights

I’ve choked on tears
That fell like high ideals
When I tried to change the world
I found myself beneath its wheels
Some days the tire tracks I don’t mind
Some days they’re the only signs of life that I can find

I’ve looked the other way
I’ve made words into walls
I walk amongst the victims
But I cannot hear their calls
Track Name: Six Shots
Six Shots

I woke up lower than I have ever been
You know I push off the bottom every now and again
This time is different, the needle’s in the red
No matter what I do can’t get you outta my head

Give me six shots
All in a line
I been mistreated and I don’t mind dyin’
Give me six shots and I’ll be fine
Just give me six shots

I knew from drop one it was going to be bad
All that I’ve lost that I once have had
I don’t like feeling the way that I do
How long baby ‘till I’m over you

I don’t need someone to tell me - it’s understood
The way I live my life - it’s just no good
Gave everything I had ‘till there was nothin’ left to lose
What I do from here on out is for me to choose