Road Song

Road Song

It is impossible to prevent Wes Montgomery’s premature death (from a heart attack) from coloring the experience of listening to his final album. Road Song might otherwise have been one more in an ever-developing (or stagnating, as argued by some of the more bitter critics) line of pop song interpretations, but the fact that it is Montgomery’s final work gives added resonance to the pining, poignant melodies of “Yesterday,” “I’ll Be Back” and “Serene,” which are accompanied by an earthy, mournful string quartet organized by Don Sebesky. What Montgomery was after in his final recordings was immortal melody. In sorting through pop songs and standards he wanted tunes with roots, from which he could spring his inimitable improvisatory lines like long reaching branches. His taste for fragile folk melodies is shown in “Greensleeves,” “Scarborough Fair (Canticle)” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” One can’t help but feel that he knew these were melodies that would live on long after he had passed on, and he articulates each with all the weight and wisdom of his 45-year life.

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