Single Review: Kristian Montgomery & The Winterkill Band – “Secret Watering Hole”

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Single Review of Kristian Montgomery & The Winterkill Band: “Secret Watering Hole”

Boston-area singer-songwriter Kristian Montgomery is not one to let grass grow under his feet. When the pandemic hit in full swing last year he dove into his inner psyche and soul, coming up with enough fresh material for an album’s worthy triumvirate of creative output. The result of that labor resulted in 2020’s The Gravel Church, 2021’s Prince of Poverty, and the soon-to-be-released A Heaven for Heretics in January 2022.

Kristian Montgomery & the Winterkill Band – "Secret Watering Hole"

photo courtesy of Kristian Montgomery

Surely, Montgomery’s blend of reflective blues and country rock songs combined with his rich, slightly worn and emotive voice is starting to catch fire with fans and critics alike. Montgomery was recently nominated by the prestigious New England Music Awards on the strength of his Prince of Poverty release. “Secret Watering Hole” is a brand new single from the aforementioned upcoming A Heaven for Heretics and continues his blend of an Americana aesthetic, mixed with vivid imagery and detailed storytelling. The song is draped in southern gothic charm and Cajun-laced magic. References to New Orleans and Mardi Gras are supported by a soothing bed of layered guitars and a relaxed, swampy back beat. It’s kind of a meeting of classic styles that match the melodic poetry of The Band, with the groovy laid back sounds of The Allman Brothers Band.

“Another crawling out of the American gutter record” is a quote, found on Montgomery’s own bandcamp page, in response to his last full-length release. Other references to his current single and his previous catalog suggest the slightly outsider world view of like-minded compadres such as The Highwaymen, Sturgill Simpson, Steve Earle, Townes Van Zandt, and Chris Stapleton.

The current single “Secret Watering Hole” was produced by Joe Clapp at Ultrasound Studios and captures a sound and mood that is contemporary, yet intimate and timeless.

Looking Ahead

Of course, the album A Heaven for Heretics, which contains “Secret Watering Hole,” is scheduled for a January release. [I’ll be writing that review on or after the album’s release date. -GW] Also keep an eye on the “Events” page of the band’s website for future performances and on the band’s Facebook page for the latest news about Kristian Montgomery & the Winterkill Band.

Album Review: Kristian Montgomery & the Winterkill Band – Prince of Poverty

Kristian Montgomery

photo courtesy of Kristian Montgomery & the Winterkill Band

Album Review of Kristian Montgomery & the Winterkill Band: Prince of Poverty

The sound. It’s such a unique, original sound, yet comfortable and familiar. Or perhaps uncomfortably familiar. A uniquely specific blend of rockabilly, country-rock, and blues influences, on Prince of Poverty, Kristian Montgomery & the Winterkill Band deliver energetic, fast-paced numbers, soulful, heartfelt ballads, and catchy mid-tempo songs in-between.

This album grabs the listener quickly, with the seething, growling, barely-concealed rage of “They’ll Remember My Name” making an instant impression. The churning power of the rhythm supports Kristian’s understated, edgy vocal snarl, with surreptitiously catchy lyrics driving the chorus, with some soaring guitar wails judiciously thrown in to maintain a somewhat frantic flavor to the soundbed. In the end, even if you don’t listen closely enough to hear the rest of the lyrics, you’ll unconsciously sing along to “They’ll remember my… they’ll remember my… they’ll remember my… they’ll remember my name.”

Kristian Montgomery & the Winterkill Band - Prince of Poverty

image courtesy of Kristian Montgomery & the Winterkill Band

Next up is another song that’ll wend its way into your musical memory bank, “Tired of Being Tired.” With a tempo and vocal delivery that perfectly conveys desperate exhaustion, it’s a well-written piece of bluesy, sway-along, hauntingly relatable Americana.

“Working Hands” picks up the energy with, well, energetic picking. Just that hint of hillbilly energy adds an off-kilter edge to this raucous knee-bouncing foot-stomper.

“A Warm Grave” takes the mood and tempo down a bit, dipped in pensive, thoughtful melancholy: “Some things can’t be replaced. We’re gon’ die someday. It will be a disgrace if all we leave behind is a warm grave.”

“Don’t Call Me Baby” has an old-school rock flavor, reminding me of, among other music comparisons, a more ragged, rough-and-tumble version of a Georgia Satellites tune. The song’s uptempo, energetic motor and especially hooky lyric that begins “She’s a bitter pill to swallow lately…“, combined with Kristian’s gravelly, urgently insistent vocal marks this as another of the album’s many memorably catchy tunes.

Slow, heartfelt thoughtfulness describes the mellow “Soul For Soul,” though some raw, gritty guitar riffs add hints of a stormy undercurrent.

Kristian Montgomery

photo courtesy of Kristian Montgomery & the Winterkill Band

“That Kind of Love” resumes the rattly, jangly, bluesy mid-tempo country-rock vibe with keenly insightful verses build around the chorus: “That kind of love can kill a man, they say. That kind of love can make a coward brave.”

“I’ll Find My Way Home” has a defiant independence that drives the song straight forward, with a fun recurring riff that adds plenty of texture while helping give the song its swagger.

Finally, Prince of Poverty closes with two energetic, memorable, hooky numbers that are likely to become quick favorites.

The first of those, “American Fire,” is a lament of America’s recent direction, highlighting some of the dangers and missteps of turning a blind eye in the name of patriotism. It’s a wicked catchy git-along song, too, so I’m guessing some people will find themselves singing along before they realize whether or not they agree with the sentiment.

And the album closes on yet another high note, a fun number with almost a John Cougar Mellencamp-does-the-Opry feeling to it, “Just Driving Around.” It end the collection with a good, warm feeling: “Some people get slowed down, stuck in these dead end towns, but I’ve got it figured out ’cause I met a girl who’s happy just driving around.” In the end, this might be the most country song on the disc, at least in its content, as it revels in the sentiment that the best things in life are the simplest. But it’s not corny; it’s simply a full, memorable little ditty that’s “gonna haunt your ass.”

In closing, as I said in the beginning, there’s something so familiar about the style of Kristian Montgomery & the Winterkill Band. And yet, the precision of the songwriting, talent of the musicianship, and sincerity of the delivery insists this is something special. You’ll have some immediate favorites upon first listen, but that will evolve over multiple listens, as Prince of Poverty is a disc with staying power from a talented artist worth getting to know.

Looking Ahead

Prince of Poverty is the second “pandemic album” from Kristian Montgomery & the Winterkill Band, a follow-up to The Gravel Church. And, in the spirit of “let no dust settle,” Kristian is working on a third. As a fun of really good music, I can only be excited by the prospect of his creative talent continuing to flow freely. To mix in a sports metaphor, all he does is score touchdowns.