in The Wagoneers:
Stout and High (1988)
Good Fortune (1989)
as a solo artist
Monte Warden (1993)
Here I Am (1995)
A Stranger to Me Now (1999)
Stout & High (1988) |
Review from the All-Music Guide
An exceptional debut from this Austin-based quartet that combined edgy country and rockabilly. Led by lead singer and principle songwriter Monte Warden, The Wagoneers' sound borrowed heavily from the country leanings of Buddy Holly and his teenage collaboration with fellow Texan Bob Montgomery. Warden has a magnetism which jumps from the grooves and lead guitarist Brent Wilson adds tight harmony a la Bob to Buddy, or Phil to Don Everly, and capably sings lead on his own 'Lie And Say You Love Me.' Aficionados of pedal steel guitar will delight in the understated, but expressive playing by veteran Katon Roberts. There really isn't a weak cut here, and co-label head and legendary trumpet player Herb Alpert, even lends his legendary trumpet -- in a magnificent Tex-Mex solo flourish -- at the intro of the title track, a story song about the historic fall of the Alamo. Although the band had a minor hit with 'I Wanna Know Her Again,' the band broke up after two albums and Warden went on to a solo career and followed more of a rootsy/pop muse, but he sounds the most natural singing the country stuff. The first country album released by A&M, The Wagoneers were a precursor to kindred, but more successful bands like the Mavericks. Produced by notable Nashville producer Emory Gordy, Jr., if this record had been released 3 or 4 years later, it might have stood a better commercial chance. -- Jack Leaver
|Good Fortune (1989)|
All-Music Guide Review:
Coming on the heels of their premiere hit CD, 'Stout and High,' this second release is more than just disappointing. The band that had taken traditional C&W music by the boot straps and brought it back into the limelight failed miserably to repeat their hat trick a second time. While the talent is there, the energy and enthusiasm are not. At best, this is a third rate recording that appears to have been done in a hurry with little or no concern for the end result. Sadly, the production is more in tune to pop music and lead singer Monte Warden's leanings in that direction are killing to the original spirit of The Wagoneers. As if an omen of what was to come, the album starts off with a Warden-Palermo cowrite that seemingly reflects Warden's plans for a solo career. Still, there are moments when the band comes around. Ahead of their time and making every cut count on 'Stout and High,' they recapture their foresight on 'Por Favor Senior,' which foreshadows the early sound of future Nashville hit makers, the Mavericks. An all-star line up of talent makes the failure of this project all the more baffling. Sleepy LaBeef, Glen Duncan, Glen D. Hardin and pedal steel provided by Kayton Roberts should add up to success. Warden, always the main songwriter, exhibits some of the old zest when he joins six-string bassist Craig Pettigrew in the writing of 'Take Me.' The predecessors of the likes of Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys, High Noon and the Lucky Stars will always be regarded as pioneers who pointed us back to tradition, substance and real C&W music the way it's supposed to be done inspite of their drastic plunge into oblivion. -- Jana Pendragon
|Monte Warden (1993)|
Review from the CMJ New Music report:
After the underappreciated Wagoneers broke up, it took Monte Warden nearly four years to release a solo record, but one listen to his self-titled Watermelon debut is all that's necessary to discover he possesses a talent worth waiting around for. Lately, we've been mired in a sea of oh-so-mellow singer-songwriters, and thankfully Warden doesn't fit into that category. His songs are pure country, equal parts rockabilly, Texas hanky-tank and blue-eyed soul, performed with maximum passion. A native of Austin who has had songs covered by Patty Loveless and Kelly Willis, Warden is assisted here by some of the hottest country players from the Lone Star State, including drummer Mas Palermo (who shares production credit with Warden) and bassist Brad Fordham (both of whom are in Kelly Willis' band), guitarist Brent Wilson (formerly of the Wagoneers), Floyd Domino on piano, Ted Roddy adding harmonica, and even Kelly Willis shows up for a heart-tugging duet, 'The Only One.' This is as solid a record as you'll hear all year, as exciting as today's country music can be. -Jim Caligiuri Draw a line beginning with early rock & roll pioneers like Buddy Holly and Ricky Nelson, continue through the sweet pop sentiments of the '60s, veer into the country inspirations and roots rock of the '70s and '80s (think Gram Parsons, Bruce Springsteen), and you'll end up pointing directly at Monte Warden. A Stranger to Me Now, his Asylum debut, showcases these influences in a country-rock amalgam that's at once an homage to his heroes and at the same time wholly original and contemporary. With expressive songwriting and vocals that always carry just the right punch (the whisper soft "Just to Hear Your Voice" is an achingly vivid depiction of heartbreak, while good times don't get much better than with "Madeline"), Warden won't be a stranger for long. --Alexandra Russell
All-Music Guide Review:|
Imagine finding a long-lost Buddy Holly album -- not outtakes, but the real thing. Then start playing Monte Warden just about anywhere -- 'Don't Know a Thing,' 'It's Amazing,' 'All I Want Is You,' or even the ballad 'Just to Hear Your Voice.' You won't feel let down. -- Brian Mansfield
From "Rolling Stone" 8/19/93, p.77:|
"...for all the music's exuberance and sincerity, it never comes across as retro calculation or [caricature]..."
From TWANGIN' !, May, 1994|
Great news: the man behind The Wagoneers has returned. Four years after the band broke up with notices indicating he'd been dropped from A&M and signed to RCA as a solo act, Monte Warden pops up on an indie label, showing himself as sweet and charismatic as ever.
On first listen I knew this was a good album, but I couldn't help feeling a bit let down; my great love for Warden's songwriting was bound up in the moody, wide open, country and western feeling of the two Wagoneers albums. When I wasn't seeing western vistas in his songs, I was seeing barnlike, smokey roadhouses. On this new album, the production is clean, clear and enclosed, deriving more from rockabilly and an overall tension that gives you a sock-hop feeling of the fifties. A casual listening leaves you with the impression of good-time happy-feet dance music, but if you spend time with it, the Wardenesque moodiness comes falling in with a sweep of beautiful harmony and back-up vocals ('It's Amazing') or the juxtaposition of hard- driving full-tilt rockabilly slapback vocals and shivery intense harmonica with lyrics that are completely full of self-loathing ('Feel Better').
The album's strong flavor of fifties pop just coming out of country, and its heavy, sometimes fevered romance (check out 'Car Seat'!) keeps reminding me of Marshall Crenshaw, who wouldn't be out of place doing some guest leads on this album (maybe the next one...?). There are also some good stretches into the outer fringes of pop R&B ('Everyday We Fall In Love' and 'Til She Walked In') and yet other songs that would have fit right into The Wagoneers' canon, such as 'Just To Hear Your Voice,' 'All I Want Is You,' and 'The Only One,' a duet with the overrated Kelly Willis.
The songwriting and vocal delivery are serious, beautiful, exquisite, and perhaps more self-assured than on his previous work. As with The Wagoneers, there's a heart-wrenching simplicity that reaches deep and holds on to me: I know this will be music I'll hold dear for the rest of my life. --William Breiding
|Here I Am (1995)|
After two releases as leader of The Wagoneers and a debut solo effort, the Austin native has come up with his best disc yet. The ways of melody are mysterious--how do you send a tune through unexpected twists and turns and still end up with perfect symmetry?--but Warden has mastered the craft. All 10 tunes on 'Here I Am' grab the ear with an unusual left-hand turn in the vocal line and then resolve that detour with a satisfying harmony at the end of each chorus. --Geoffrey Himes
|A Stranger to Me Now (1999)|
Minstrel Music review:
Monte Warden spent plenty of time kicking around the roots-rock scene with little mainstream recognition despite album after album of top-notch material. It may be that his combination of country and Buddy Holly-ish pop/rock defies pigeonholing. 'A Stranger to Me Now' is one of Warden's most fully realized efforts, and it allows him to explore the full breadth of his talent. Moving from the midtempo heartland rock of the organ-driven 'Your Heart Will Come Around' through the lush, romantic balladry of 'The Love You Promised Me' to the raw, Bo Diddley-derived rocker 'It's Only Love,' the album captures Warden's diversity perfectly. His considerable vocal and compositional are brought to the fore throughout, making it plain that his is a fully formed vision. Warden comes across as a completely honest, purely American artist with little taste for boundaries.
Draw a line beginning with early rock & roll pioneers like Buddy Holly and Ricky Nelson, continue through the sweet pop sentiments of the '60s, veer into the country inspirations and roots rock of the '70s and '80s (think Gram Parsons, Bruce Springsteen), and you'll end up pointing directly at Monte Warden. 'A Stranger to Me Now', his Asylum debut, showcases these influences in a country-rock amalgam that's at once an homage to his heroes and at the same time wholly original and contemporary. With expressive songwriting and vocals that always carry just the right punch (the whisper soft "Just to Hear Your Voice" is an achingly vivid depiction of heartbreak, while good times don't get much better than with "Madeline"), Warden won't be a stranger for long. --Alexandra Russell
The ghost of Roy Orbison hovers high over Monte Warden's brand new Asylum debut, A Stranger to Me Now. Indeed, Orby would be proud of how tasteful and tuneful this melodic disciple is. Some of you may be familiar with Warden as the frontman of The Wagoneers, and later with his two solo projects for Watermelon Records. Even though those projects earned Warden acclaim, he's really come into his own on his new record, due in large part to a vision that pays homage to the vintage country-roots sounds of the '60s, updated for the '90s with crisp arrangements and Warden's own gifted songwriting. Cuts like "The Love You Promised Me," "Just to Hear Your Voice" and the title track are beautifully mellow pop songs recalling in passion and melody prime Simon & Garfunkel, yet still remaining in the country roots realm. On the pop side, the crackling "I Can't Tell What My Heart Will Do," the uptempo "Madeline" and the aforementioned title track all have incredibly catchy choruses and brilliant guitar work without stooping much to cliche. In the end, it's Warden's singular vocalizing (ala Chris Isaak) and strong writing that make the difference; he's a cool breeze blowing the stale pop air over Nashville well out to sea. --Bob Gulla
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