Review By: George
Peden, CSO Staff Journalist
born Lisa Montes is a determined and talented singer and
songwriter. She’s a smart one too! Following the moves of many
aspiring country independents, publicists and labels, Lisa
contacted CSO. She wanted an opinion on her release, Wildfire.
As the Internet’s * fourth major site for
country music reviews, news, comment and opinion, we were happy to
give the 10 songs off her self-penned debut some space.
The album proves one thing
early: if you have the dream and apply the needed resolve, you can
follow keen ambition to the marketplace. Like the album’s
opening track of life’s uncertain challenges, “Ready Or
Not”, the singer, who cites Tim McGraw, Eric Clapton and Gloria
Estefan as influences, comes prepared. On the album’s journey,
Montes has chased experience via the well-worn route of bars,
coffee shops and an assortment of places designed to build
character rather than a bank balance.
As a first-up effort the album,
with its assorted mix of country, blues and fashionable pop
(isn’t everyone doing it these days?), sits balanced between a
choice of buying or borrowing. While this is an entertaining
album, it doesn’t win me entirely. It was the same for the
friend who listened with me: “Mmmmm…some tracks make it….”
While, admittedly, musical
preference is personal, the album seemed to claim a consensus:
vocally it sounded too much the same. Now I’m sure the spirited
and beautiful Lisa Montes is capable of varied vocal emotion;
however, to my ears it doesn’t quite happen here. Pity, because
a different album may have offered a different opinion.
Montes can write. No doubt.
Songs like the inventorial “My Kind Of Man”, the moody “One
Night Solace” and “Border Town”, a tequila–dipped and
guitar-led ode to heartache Mexican style, all show promise, while
insightful social commentary is heard on “Hypocrisy Of Love”,
a look at family abuse. Vocally, Montes is melodic. She’s
more than capable of hitting the right notes. But for me, here,
too little vocal grit was the missing ingredient.
This artist’s keen drive and
passion might hold the solution. Montes not only wrote and sang
the album, she co–produced -- a complete embrace of the
recording process. It may have served better, as a “newbie”,
if some distance between artist and process had happened.
The point’s been missed if my
comments seem purely negative. Montes is talented. Montes is
a capable writer, and, unlike so many independents who think songwriting
just rhymes words, she has something to say.
I’d liked to have heard it in
a voice sounding like it’s lived the lyrics.
Bravos go out to the album’s
co-producer, Kevin Harris. He also played the album’s
instrumentation – guitar, bass, keyboard, banjo and drums.