Montana Tunesmith – fifth-generation Montanans Tim and Mike Nordstrom from Billings – have their third album out featuring their brand of Americana music. All songs save one were written by Tim Nordstrom; Charley Waples co-wrote “Oh Montana” with him. It’s a gorgeous paean to our beloved Big Sky Country.
Talented guests on the Tunesmith effort are Pat Manske, drums/percussion; Asleep at the Wheel’s Dennis Ludeker, fiddle and mandolin; Grammy-winning producer Lloyd Maines on umpteen instruments, including pedal steel and Dobro; folk singer Tracy Grammer, fiddle and vocals on the title tune; and Grammy-winner George Winston, piano on “One Montana.” Mike Nordstrom contributes vocals, and brother Tim plays acoustic guitar, banjo, and piano.
The 13 compositions have smooth and lush production, and crackerjack riffs abound. Thick layers of instrumentation swaddle “Family Calling,” a sad ballad of a man whose dreams have passed him by. Lots of silky pedal steel add to the ambience.
The catchy “Live It Up” is a nifty jitterbugger. The snap-tap of drums and light mandolin implore us to taste life. “Work hard play hard until you’re in the boneyard” is good advice!
“31 Flavors” is a mandolin-flavored loper that bemoans the loss of uniqueness across our country, and “Back from the Woods” has a moody, country-rock flavor with minor chords and banjo riffs. The vocals here remind me a bit of Charlie Daniels. The brothers have tight harmonies and adept baritone voices that mesh nicely on all the pieces.
“Dream Catch” is a spooky fishing song, dark and quiet, with a cool Dobro lead. Grandma is the fisher in 1925 who lands her biggest catch, yet lets it go.
“Full Moon on the Missions,” a tender ballad, and “One Montana,” a waltz, complete the trio of songs extolling this place we all love.
– Mariss McTucker