Country Dick Montana
News of Country Dick Montana's death on November 8, 1995 came hard to friends and fans of the 40 year-old drummer/vocalist and his band, the Beat Farmers.
On the road promoting their eighth record, the group had just completed an American tour and were playing in Canada when Dick died on stage during a set at The Long Horn, a bar in Whistler, British Columbia.
While Montana's untimely passing may've broken a few hearts, caused more than a few tears and left hundreds of dreams, hopes, plans and promises the singer had made unfulfilled- The Devil Lied To Me, the long-awaited solo debut completed just two months prior to his death, is the collection of 100%-Country Dick tunes Montana had always threatened to unleash on his fans.
Featuring Beat Farmer guitarist Joey Harris (who served as musical coordinator and arranger) working with musicians such as Mojo Nixon, John Doe, Rosie Flores, Candye Kane, Dave Alvin and Katy Moffatt, the gravel-voiced, charismatic frontman conveys a warmth and earnestness on the self-produced The Devil Lied To Me merely hinted at on his previous recordings. The solo setting allows him the freedom to be as singularly "Dick-like" as the spirit moves him.
Country Dick Montana, a former record store owner, one-time (short-term) high school class president, ex-Crawdaddy drummer and past president of the Kinks Preservation Society fan club formed the Beat Farmers in 1983.
With respectable pop, bar-band, rock-a-billy, punk/country credentials; twisted connections to The Bangles, Los Lobos, The Blasters, Tom Jones and Mojo Nixon (Dick officiated at his 1989 wedding and high-speed go-kart race); certifiable guitar heroes in Harris and Jerry Raney; the punky pulse of Rolle Love's bass; a fanatical cult of kazoo-bearing fans willing to drive hours to see them play live; and memorable, melodic songs about cars, girls, drinkin', God, country, unrequited love, drinkin', trailer parks, sex, lost weekends and drinkin'- the Beat Farmers filled a need for open, honest, quality roots-rock long before most people realized the genre even existed.
The undisputed highlight of most Beat Farmer albums, as well as the loudest cheers at the thousands of shows the band played during their twelve year career, were reserved for the twisted ranting and unique world view of Montana.
Taking centerstage with the manic energy of a lurching, twitching, fast-talking televangelist on a six-day bender; Country Dick's joyously single-minded, white trash sensibilities made originals such as "Baby's Liquor'd Up," "Are You Drinkin' With Me Jesus?" and "Happy Boy" instant favorites; while inspired live covers of "Lucille," "Whole Lotta Love" and "Anarchy In The U.K." often resulted in sing-alongs involving 600 or so good natured drunks. No mere rock 'n' roll sideshow, there was a genuine passion and conviction to Country Dick's music and crusty persona, and a basic, gentle honesty to the man that commanded the love and respect of his friends, fans and fellow musicians.
A 1993 release from The Pleasure Barons predated the whole Vegas lounge revival currently sweeping the nation. The Barons' touring unit featured Nixon, Alvin and Montana fronting most of the musicians who appear on The Devil Lied To Me. They mixed martinis on stage, wore tuxedos and allowed Dick's Dean Martin influences to come to the fore.
While recording the Beat Farmers' Viking Lullabys and Manifold, Montana was also busy assembling the songs that would eventually become The Devil Lied To Me.
Featuring deep, searching, soul-baring vocals, reflective lyrics and an occasional country-ish flavor, there are still enough traces of Montana's warped wit and off-the-cuff riffing present to keep casual fans happy. The depth and gentle grace of songs such as "I Wanted You To Know," "Picture Of You" and the Paul Kamanski-written "Indigo Rider" offer long-time fans a glimpse of their old friend in a whole new light.
Highlights of the frequently brilliant The Devil Lied To Me include the raucous, blues-a-billy beat and stinging solos of the Dave Alvin-penned "Rich Man's Town," a ringing version of Tom Petty's "Listen To Her Heart," the Pleasure Baron-esque "Hurt By Love" and "Party Dolls And Wine," a rollicking cover of Jim Lowe's 1956 hit, "Green Door," the funky dissonance of "Trendy Shit Bag" and Dick's twisted homage to bums ("King Of The Hobos") and amateur rappers ("Bum Rap") everywhere.
A masterful solo debut from a man who used "maggot" as a term of endearment, proclaimed that "pork" was not a verb long before it was politically correct to do so, had a favorite William Shatner song, reveled in the complete chaos of everyday life and never met a bottle he didn't at least try to like- the simple beauty and gleeful joy of The Devil Lied To Me must now also serve as a lasting legacy and constant reminder of an unmistakable genius silenced far too soon.