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On the Front Row with Bonnie Montgomery

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Arkansas native Bonnie Montgomery is a formally trained musician who mixes country, folk and opera. Montgomery Trucking blends guitar, kazoo and mandolin for an eclectic mix of music that has been described as a cross between country, hillbilly and folk.

Montgomery Trucking features Iowa native Cade Shera on mandolin, Australia native Justin McGoldrick on guitar, Little Rock native Jimmy Young on upright bass, and Aaron Baker and Holly Montgomery on back-up vocals.

Montgomery will sing excerpts from her highly anticipated project “Billy Blythe,” a short-length opera set in 1950’s Hot Springs about the culture and landscape of southern Arkansas that shaped the adolescence of former president Bill Clinton. The work’s name comes from Clinton’s birth name, which he changed at age 16.

Accompanying Montgomery Trucking for the “Billy Blythe” excerpts will be John Willis on piano.

Bonnie Montgomery Interview

BROADCAST TRANSCRIPT

[CHEERS AND APPLAUSE]

WELL, I'M SO HAPPY YOU ALL ARE HERE, ALL THE WAY OVER IN CONWAY. THANKS FOR MAKING THE DRIVE. WE'RE GOING TO DO A FEW NUMBERS THANKS FOR MAKING THE DRIVE. WE'RE GOING TO DO A FEW NUMBERS HERE FOR YOU. ONE, TWO, ONE, TWO, THREE, FOU FOUR.  ♪  SOMETIMES I FEEL THAT YOU ARE SO CRUEL THAT YOU ARE SO CRUEL LIKE JUDAS ESCARIOT AND CATHERINE THE GREAT IVAN THE TERRIBLE AND HENRY VIII THEN THERE'S YOU.  ♪  I WALKED A MILLION MILES IN YOUR DIRECTION I STOOD OUT IN THE WIND AND IN THE RAIN BUT THEN YOU JUST DISMISSED ME WITH AFFECTION AND YOU NEVER EVEN CALLED OUT MY NAME ♪  SOMETIMES I FEEL THAT YOU ARE SO CRUEL THAT YOU ARE SO CRUEL LIKE JUDAS ESCARIOT AND CATHERINE THE GREAT IVAN THE TERRIBLE AND HENRY VIII THEN THERE'S YOU.  ♪  WE STOOD UPON THE STAGE AND WE BOWED TOGETHER WE SANG OUR SONG BENEATH THE SUMMER SUN WE WALKED AND LAUGHED AND TALKED ABOUT OUR VISION BUT ALL YOU COULD EVER DO WAS RUN  ♪  SOMETIMES I FEEL  LIKE YOU ARE SO CRUEL  LIKE YOU ARE SO CRUEL  LIKE JUDAS ESCARIOT AND CATHERINE THE GREAT IVAN THE TERRIBLE AND HENRY VIII THEN THERE'S YOU.  ♪  YEAH, SOMETIMES I FEEL  LIKE YOU ARE SO CRUEL  LIKE YOU ARE SO CRUEL  THAT YOU ARE SO CRUEL LIKE JUDAS ESCARIOT AND CATHERINE THE GREAT IVAN THE TERRIBLE AND HENRY VIII THEN THERE'S YOU.  ♪   [CHEERS AND APPLAUSE]  

THANK YOU ALL. THAT WAS A SONG ABOUT A -- YEAH. THANK YOU. SONG ABOUT A REAL WINNER THERE. YOU KNOW? YOU GOT TO WRITE ABOUT THAT STUFF TO GET SOMETHING GOOD OUT OF IT. THERE'S A BUNCH OF THEM OUT THERE.  ANYWAY, WE GOT A REAL SPECIAL GUY IN THE AUDIENCE TONIGHT, MY UNCLE LEON. HE'S GOT HIS 70th BIRTHDAY TODAY.  [APPLAUSE] YEAH, THAT'S HIM RIGHT THERE. COOLEST GUY IN THE ROOM, DEFINITELY. AND WE'RE GOING TO SING FOR HIM.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU  HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU  HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DEAR LEON  HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU ♪  HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DEAR LEON  HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU ♪   [APPLAUSE] YEAH. YEAH, THAT GUY INTRODUCED ME TO A LOT OF GREAT MUSIC. YEAH. GREAT TASTE IN MUSIC. AN FISHING HOLES.   [LAUGHTER]  OKAY.  OKAY. YOU ALL READY? ♪  IT'S MIDNIGHT AND THE WIND'S BLOWIN OUT OF KANSAS I'M WISHIN IT WAS THE MIDDLE OF JUNE I'D STAND KNEE DEEP IN A CREEK THAT RUNS TO A RIVER AND I'D KNOW WE'RE THROUGH THE SIRENS IN THIS CITY SING A SWEET SONG OF HOPE AND LOVE AND LOSS AND DESPAIR AND GREED AND I SWEAR WE'RE LIVING ON THE EDGE OF DISASTER WHO'DVE GUESSED THERE'D BE A CATCH TO BEIN FREE BUT COULD I BE WRONG THIS ALL BOILS DOWN TO A SONG AND COULD I BE RIGHT WE ALL FALL DOWN IN A FIGHT? I SWEAR WE'LL STAND ON THE STAIRS AND WE WILL ROCK YOU AND I SWORE YOU'D PUT IT ON THE LINE JUST FOR ME AND COME BACK HAPPY BUT THE LORD JUST KEPT YOU DOWN ON YOUR KNEES AND DON'T LOOK BACK IT'S NOT JUST PART OF THE PAST AND DON'T LOOK DOWN OUR FEET DON'T EVEN TOUCH THE GROUND  ♪  HOW DID WE FIND OURSELVES IN SUCH A POSITION JUST SIT BACK AND EAT YOUR CORNBREAD AND BEANS TALK OF SCIENCE TALK OF LOVE AND MUSICIANS PLEASE DON'T EVER SAY ANOTHER WORD ABOUT YOU AND ME  ♪  OUR FEET DON'T EVEN TOUCH THE GROUND. ♪   [CHEERS AND APPLAUSE]  

THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH. THIS NEXT SONG IS A SONG ABOUT VISITING NEW YORK CITY AND BEING IN ARKANSAN.  [LAUGHTER] I'M EXCITED THAT SOME OF YOU ALL IN THIS ROOM MIGHT KNOW JOHNNY McCLOUD, BUT HE WAS WITH ME WHEN WE WERE DRIVING OUT OF NEW YORK, AND THAT SKY LINE WAS JUST IN THE REARVIEW MIRROR, JUST PRETTY AND NEAT, JUST LITTLE BITTY, JUST GOING FURTHER BEHIND ME AS I WAS GOING SOUTH, AND THIS TUNE CAME INTO MY MIND, SO THIS IS WHAT IT IS. IT'S ABOUT, YOU KNOW, BEING SPLIT BETWEEN TWO WORLDS AND WANTING TO BE COSMOPOLITAN AND LIVE IN NEW YORK CITY BUT THEN WANTING TO BE COSMOPOLITAN AND LIVE IN NEW YORK CITY BUT THEN WANTING TO GO HOME TOO. ♪  CRITTERS AND DOGS AND DEER IN THE ROAD UNCLE DOYLE IS DEAD NOT OLD MELBOURNE MUST BE NEAR TO THIS ROAD IZARD COUNTY AIN'T TOO COLD TAKE ME TO THE PLACE WHERE MY GRANDADDY'S LAID SING AND DANCE AND SHOUT ON HIS GRAVE HOLLER AND YELL AND RANT AND RAVE THE GOOD LORD KNOWS WE'VE ALL BEEN SAVED I'M STEPPIN DOWN FROM NEW YORK TOWN I'LL BE AROUND IF YOU WANNA HUNT ME DOWN BUT DON'T FOLLOW ME DOWN I'M SOUTHWARD BOUND THE CITY'S TALL AND THE CITY'S BRIGHT MANHATTAN AINT LONESOME IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT, BUT IT'S A LONG WAY DOWN FROM NEW YORK TOWN I AINT' TOO PRETTY AND AIN'T TOO SWEET I'LL BE THE ONE YOU'LL WANNA MEET COME DOWN TO THE FARM, WE'LL HAVE A GOOD EAT YOU SING A SONG, I'LL KEEP A STEADY BEAT NEW YORK CITY AIN'T TOO SMALL POUR ME A DRINK THAT'S STRONG AND TALL DON'T TELL MY MAMA THAT I GOT THE GALL YOU STAND IN THE CORNER I'LL CLIMB UP THE WALL I'M STEPPIN DOWN FROM NEW YORK TOWN I'LL BE AROUND IF YOU WANNA HUNT ME DOWN BUT DON'T FOLLOW ME DOWN I'M SOUTHWARD BOUND I'LL BE BACK SOON. I CAN'T STAY TOO LONG. BECAUSE I GOT TO GET BACK TO THAT NEW YORK PACK  CARRY ME TO HEAVEN  SMILING IN THE SKY  TELL THAT PREACHER I AIN'T GONNA LIE  THE ONLY THING WE CAN REALLY DO IS DRIVE  HE IS WAY OVER THERE AND HE'S COMING HOME SOON  I HEARD THEY'RE GOING TO START MINING THE MOON PL THERE'S A BABY DUE, CAME BEFORE JUNE, COME UP TO KANSAS CITY AND GET US A ROOM  I'M SLIPPING DOWN TO NEW YORK TOWN  AND I'LL BE AROUND IF YOU WANNA HUNT ME DOWN BUT DON'T FOLLOW ME DOWN I'M SOUTHWARD BOUND NOW, THE CITY'S TALL AND THE CITY'S BRIGHT  MANHATTAN AIN'T LONESOME IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT  IT'S A LONG WAY DOWN  FROM NEW YORK TOWN  ♪   [CHEERS AND APPLAUSE]  

THANK YOU ALL. I THINK THAT'S JUST THE RIGHT TIME TO INTRODUCE THE BAND. THIS IS MR. JUDSON McGOLDRICK RIGHT HERE. HE IS ALL THE WAY FROM AUSTRALIA, Y'ALL. HE APPROACHED ME BACK LAST FALL AND SAID HEY, YOU WANT A GUITA GUITARIST THAT CAN PLAY LIKE LUTHER PERKINS? AND I JUST ABOUT FELL OVER BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT I'VE BEEN LOOKING FOR FOR YEARS. SO YEAH. AND THIS IS MR. CADE SHARA ON THE MANDOLIN. THANK YOU ALL. I THINK WE SAID THIS IN THE BI BIO, BUT CADE WAS A GUITARIST UNTIL ABOUT WHAT? FOUR MONTHS AGO? YEAH. SO HE JUST PICKED THIS THING UP AND, YOU KNOW, JUST TRIED IT OUT. THIS IS WHAT WE GOT.  [LAUGHTER] THEN THIS IS MR. JIMMY YOUNG BACK HERE ON THE BASS.  [APPLAUSE] YEAH. UH-HUH.  I'M GOING TO STEP OVER HERE TO THE PIANO AND GIVE EVERYBODY  I'M GOING TO STEP OVER HERE TO THE PIANO AND GIVE EVERYBODY ELSE A LITTLE BREAK. THIS IS A BECKSTEIN, IN CASE YOU DIDN'T NOTICE. IT'S THE FIRST TIME MY FINGERS HAVE BEEN ABLE TO TOUCH ONE, AND IT'S REALLY FUN, SO THANKS TO THE STUDIO HERE FOR THAT. AND IT'S REALLY FUN, SO THANKS TO THE STUDIO HERE FOR THAT. AND PIANO CRAFT IN LITTLE ROCK. ♪  I LOVE A MAN WHO DOESN'T LOVE ME  IT'S SUBJECT FOR SONG IS ALL HE'S MANAGED TO BE  ♪  SPARKLES AND BOX SEATS  WILL ALL HAVE TO WAIT  ONE TICKET'S BETTER THAN TWO WITHOUT YOU FOR A DATE  ♪  DROP ME A LINE, FELLA  CARRY ME BACK  TO SALS BURG ON SUNDAY  PANAMANIAN JACK  THE WORLD'S  SHE'S READY TO THROW  AND I'VE GOT A SWEETHEART WHO LOVES TO MOVE SLOW  SINK INTO ART SONGS  OF HEARTS FROM THE PAST  RECALL THE OVATION YOU GAVE TO  OF HEARTS FROM THE PAST  RECALL THE OVATION YOU GAVE TO A DAME IN THE CAST. CHAMPAGNE IS GIDDY AND BLOOD NEVER BORES  SEND ME TO RUSSIA AND CALL ME A SEA-FARING GIRL  THE OCEAN ONCE CLAMOURED OUTSIDE OF YOUR DOOR THE WATER TOLD NEWS OF OUR TIMING AND SCORE AND SOMEWHERE IN ASIA I DOCKED AT THE BAY TO FIND YOU HAD FINALLY FOLLOWED YOUR OLD STUBBORN WAY  ♪  BACK IN THE STATES I COULD DIE IN YOUR ARMS YOU COULD DRIVE DIESELS AND TELL ME OF TAIWA TAIWANESE CHARMS  ♪  SPILL FROM THE FUTURE AND ANSWER FOR ME  CULTURES ARE CRYING IN ANTICIPATION OF THEE  ♪  DROP ME A LINE FELLA  CARRY ME BACK  TO SALZBURGH ON SUNDAY  PANAMANIAN JACK  THE WORLD'S GOT A WHISTLE SHE'S READY TO THROW  AND I GOT A SWEETHEART WHO LOVES TO MOVE SLOW  ♪  HE LOVES TO MOVE SO SLOW  ♪  ♪   [APPLAUSE] THANK YOU. NOW, I WENT FAR -- A LONG WAY AWAY TO ARKANSAS AND I WENT TO CHINA, AND THIS SONG IS WHAT CAME OUT OF THAT, AND A LOT OF OTHER THINGS. YEAH. OTHER THINGS. YEAH. I'LL QUIT TALKING. ♪  GREEN TEA AND CITY SKIES, SITTIN ON A STOOP SINGING CRY CRY CRY I GOT THE BLUES, BABY GOT THE BEIJING BLUES GREEN TEA AND CITY SKIES, SITTIN ON A STOOP SINGING CRY CRY CRY I GOT THE BLUES, BABY GOT THE BEIJING BLUES I ARRIVED LAST NIGHT IN TEARS THINKIN BOUT THE BOYS AND THE BYGONE YEARS I LOOKED TWICE AND I DIDN'T LOOK BACK A SOLDIER FACE AND A BROKE DOWN SHACK TOUCH ME HARD WHEN WE HIT THE GROUND A DIFFERENT CITY BUT THE SAME OLD TOWN MEMBER WHEN WE MET AT THE KILLIN SQUARE SAME STREET VENDORS AND THE SAME LONG STARES  GREEN TEA AND CITY SKIES, SITTIN ON A STOOP SINGING CRY CRY CRY I GOT THE BLUES, BABY GOT THE BEIJING BLUES GREEN TEA AND CITY SKIES, SITTIN ON A STOOP SINGING CRY CRY CRY I GOT THE BLUES, BABY GOT THE BEIJING BLUES WHAT DO YOU SAY AND WHAT DO YOU DO  OLYMPIC BOYS AND ILLEGAL ZOOS  CHOPSTICKS AND A NIGHT TRAIN RIDE  I THINK I'M GOING TO LAUGH AND I KNOW I'M GOING TO CRY  TAKE ME TO THE STATION AND WISH US LUCK  I'M THE HONORED GUEST WITH THE PEKING DUCK  DON'T DRINK THE WATER AND YOU WON'T GET SICK  AND GREEN TEA AND CITY SKIES  SITTIN ON A STOOP SINGING CRY CRY CRY  I GOT THE BLUES, BABY  I GOT THE BEIJING BLUES. GREEN TEA AND CITY SKIES, SITTIN ON A STOOP SINGING CRY CRY CRY I GOT THE BLUES, BABY GOT THE BEIJING BLUES I GOT THE BLUES, BABY GOT THE BEIJING BLUES  ♪   [APPLAUSE] 

THANK YOU ALL. THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH. THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH. PEOPLE ARE ALWAYS SURPRISED WHEN THEY FIND OUT THIS SONG'S NOT ABOUT A MAN.  [LAUGHTER] AND I'VE GOT FAMILY HERE, SO I THINK THAT'S ALL I'VE GOT TO SAY. THINK THAT'S ALL I'VE GOT TO SAY.  [LAUGHTER] ♪  I COULD TALK A LITTLE LOUDER I COULD TALK A LITTLE LOUDER BUT I WON'T BUT I WON'T I COULD TALK A LITTLE LOUDER I COULD TALK A LITTLE LOUDER BUT I WON'T BUT I WON'T I COULD LOAD UP THE PISTOL I COULD LOAD UP THE PISTOL BUT I WON'T BUT I WON'T I COULD LOAD UP THE PISTOL I COULD LOAD UP THE PISTOL BUT I WON'T BUT I WON'T I COULD BURN THAT HOUSE DOWN I COULD BURN THAT HOUSE DOWN BUT I WON'T BUT I WON'T I COULD PUBLICLY RUIN YOU I COULD BURN THAT HOUSE DOWN I COULD BURN THAT HOUSE DOWN BUT I WON'T BUT I WON'T TAKE IT AWAY, KATE.  ♪  I COULD PUBLICLY RUIN YOU I COULD PUBLICLY RUIN YOU BUT I WON'T BUT I WON'T I COULD PUBLICLY RUIN YOU I COULD PUBLICLY RUIN YOU BUT I WON'T BUT I WON'T TAKE IT AWAY FOR THE KAZOOS  ♪  I'M THAT MAN'S DAUGHTER I'M THAT MAN'S DAUGHTER AND YOU KNOW AND YOU KNOW I'M THAT MAN'S DAUGHTER I'M THAT MAN'S DAUGHTER AND YOU KNOW AND YOU KNOW  ♪  JUSTIN THERE ON THAT GUITAR.  JUSTIN THERE ON THAT GUITAR.  [APPLAUSE] I COULD TALK A LITTLE LOUDER I COULD TALK A LITTLE LOUDER BUT I WON'T NO, I WON'T I COULD TALK A LITTLE LOUDER I COULD TALK A LITTLE LOUDER BUT I WON'T I COULD TALK A LITTLE LOUDER BUT I WON'T BUT I WON'T  [APPLAUSE] 

OH, THANK YOU ALL SO VERY MUCH. I'D PROBABLY CALL IT AMERICANA, COUNTRY, OLD-TIME COUNTRY, PRIMITIVE COUNTRY, I GUESS. INFLUENCES? I'D SAY JOHNNY CASH, LUCINDA WILLIAMS, HANK WILLIAMS SR., ALL THE GREAT COUNTRY ARTISTS, AND ACTUALLY, GILLIAM WELCH, THE NEW COUNTRY/PRIMITIVE COUNTRY. AND THEN I'D HAVE TO SAY RUFUS WAINEWRIGHT. HE IS SORT OF A POP OPERA GUY. SO THAT INFLUENCES OUR STYLE TOO. 

AND SPEAKING OF POP APP RAVES, TELL US ABOUT YOUR OPERA. 

WELL, THIS IDEA CAME TO ME ABOUT FOUR YEARS AGO WHEN I WAS READING CLINTON'S AUTOBIOGRAPH AUTOBIOGRAPHY, AND HE DESCRIBED A SCENE OF WATCHING HIS MOTHER PUT ON HER MAKEUP, AND I COULD JUST SEE IT ON THE STAGE IN FRONT OF ME LIKE AN OPERA, AND AS I READ THROUGH THE FIRST LIKE 12 CHAPTERS OF HIS AUTO BIOGRAPHY, I COULD REALLY SEE THIS PLOT COMING OFF THE PAGE BIOGRAPHY, I COULD REALLY SEE THIS PLOT COMING OFF THE PAGE AND ON TO AN OPERATIC MEDIUM. ♪  MY! MY BIGGUN'S GROWING UP SO FAST AND ROUND THE HALF-MOONS OF MY EYES THE TIDES OF TIME HAVE DRAWN SUCH LINES ONCE, I HAD A FACE I HAD A FACE NOT WANTING 

I TEAMED UP WITH BRITTANY BARBER. SHE IS A POET, AND WE WENT TO COLLEGE TOGETHER AT OBU, SO IT KIND OF HAPPENED NATURALLY. SHE LOVES CLINTON TOO, SO WE JUST SORT OF BRAINSTORMED AND CAME UP WITH THIS PLOT AND THESE SCENES AND THESE, YOU KNOW, DIFFERENT LOCATIONS WHERE THINGS WOULD HAPPEN, AND STARTED WRITING IT. BUT BASICALLY, IT'S ABOUT BILL CLINTON'S YOUTH. IT'S ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF BILL CLINTON IN 1959, SITTING THERE ON THE FLOOR, WATCHING HIS MOTHER GET READY FOR THE DAY, AND SHE WORE COPIOUS AMOUNTS OF MAKEUP, APPARENTLY. SO SHE KIND OF MADE AN ORDEAL OUT OF THIS AND HAD HER VANITY, IT WAS VERY ELABORATE, AND SHE WOULD SIT AND SMOKE CIGARETTES AND DRINK SOME COFFEE AND PUT ON HER MAKEUP, AND THEY WOULD TALK. THEY WOULD TALK INTIMATELY, I THINK, ABOUT THINGS THAT THEY COULDN'T USUALLY TALK ABOUT IN FRONT OF ROGER CLINTON OR EVERYONE ELSE, AND THAT INCLUDED TALKING ABOUT HIS BIOLOGICAL FATHER. IT WAS SO EXCITING TO HAVE IT COME OFF THE PAGE TONIGHT. THAT WAS JUST THE COOLEST FEELING.

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