Standing room only at Caleb Montgomery's concert following the Lassen Community College Rodeo last Saturday.

Montgomery dazzles crowd at Saturday’s Lassen College Foundation fundraiser concert

Way back in the mid-1970s Australian rockers AC/DC shared their not so tongue-in-cheek version of how hard it is to make it to the top as a musical act.

Lassen Community College student, Susanville resident and Label 22 recording artist Caleb Montgomery, 20, polishes his act with his new band — The Wild West Show — and plans to take his show on the road later this year.

Label 22 recording artist Caleb Montgomery.

Montgomery headlined Saturday’s concert at the Industrial Building at the Lassen County Fairgrounds following the Lassen Community College Rodeo last weekend, and the walls bulged and the dance floor quaked as a standing room only crowd jammed the place and joyfully cheered Montgomery on.

This concert, celebrating the LCC Rodeo and the release of Montgomery’s first album, was a fundraiser for the Lassen College Foundation, with proceeds going to fund scholarships for high school graduates from all across Lassen County.

Due to the threat of inclement weather, the college moved the show from the outdoor Pavilion near the rodeo grounds to the Industrial Building on the Lassen County Fairgrounds. CDs of his first album, “Food Stamps Don’t Buy Flowers,” were available for sale at the show. The album also is available on all your favorite streaming services.

The Villebillys.

Rockabilly artists The Villebillys ably opened the show with a delightful offering of some mighty hard-twanging, honky-tonk covers from artists such as Merle Haggard and Dwight Yokam. There’s nothing quite like a chicken-pickin’ Tele for “Guitars, Cadillacs!”  The college awarded prizes to the rodeo winners and then Montgomery opened the show with “Sagrebrush in the Air” from his new Label 22 release.

“For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Caleb Montgomery,” he said. “I’m from right here in beautiful not so sunny Susanville, California. I just need to start off by saying a massive, massive thank you to Lassen Community College for having me up and playing this show for you guys … ”

At the end of the show the happy crowd mobbed Montgomery to get his autograph.

The new album — “Food Stamps Don’t Buy Flowers”
Apple music classifies the new album as Americana — the current catch phrase that seems to include any music that arises from America’s roots — but to my ears, this is a true country album that harkens back to the day when original, heart-felt songs with a message dominated the medium instead of gimmicks — a look back at the days when country was country and pop was pop. Montgomery shares his humble view of country  life in rural Northeastern California with the listener while telling the tales of ranch hands, hard drinkers and us plain old country folks living in these parts today. Surprisingly, some of his songs display perceptions and wisdom far beyond his young years.

Proud papa Chris Montgomery, a KSUE/JDX radio personality said the album hit number 1 on the Apple Music Americana chart for new releases and number 2 on the country chart for new releases. Great numbers indeed for a local youngster.

“I take a lot of pride in being able to write my own stuff,” Montgomery said in a recent interview for High County Life magazine. “I write my own compositions and lyrics and put that out rather than having somebody else write my stuff.”

In fact, Montgomery wrote all the tracks for the new album recorded at Nashville’s famous Hilltop Studio.

“It’s a great studio,” Montgomery told High Country Life, “one of the oldest in Nashville. There’s a lot of history in there, and a lot of legends have gone through there. It’s really cool to be able to stand where they stood. It’s a very humbling experience.”

Great studio or not, the ultimate test is how good does the album sound?

“I am so absolutely happy with how the album came out,” Montgomery told the magazine. “We had all A-list musicians. Of course, they do a great job … Instead of taking all these musicians and trying to get them to come together to make one sound, I had them each contribute their own sound, and what we ended up with is this masterpiece collage that is experimental and funky and really easy on the ears. I think it turned out awesome.”

Montgomery said the new album, produced by Max Hewitt, contains 10 original songs, including a remixed and remastered version of his first single, “Whiskey Talks.”

Songs on the album include “Speed of Sound,” “The Steel Guitar Ain’t Cryin’ Anymore,” “Food Stamps Don’t Buy Flowers,” “Sagebrush in the Air,” “30 Days Sober,” “A Song For Them All,” “Whiskey Talks,” “Yesterday Again,” “Ponderosa Pines,” and “Blue Eyed Bandit.”

Watch for upcoming Caleb Montgomery shows in Northeastern California and Nevada later this summer.