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John Michael Montgomery

The Very Best of John Michael Montgomery – 2003 (Warner)

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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CDs by John Michael Montgomery

John Michael Montgomery was a product of the hat act scene of the '90s. The line dancing craze where a number of telegenic singers put out albums and maybe had a hit was in full swing. But most of them did not last (remember David Kerr?) given their lack of talent in flavor-of-the-month times.

Montgomery managed to forge a much longer career than just about any of them. He has benefited from a pretty decent baritone, though hardly spectacular, but probably moreso from choosing good songs. That's a necessity considering he doesn't write.

Montgomery is best suited to up-tempo numbers like the first two on the 20-song package, "Be My Baby Tonight" and the infectious "Sold (The Grundy County Auction incident)," which has very cute lyrics and had an even cuter video. He also achieved a slew of hits with ballads, mainly on the syrupy side like "I Swear," "I Love the Way You Love Me" and "I Can Love You Like That." He sang songs with simple sentiments, which didn't cut very deep, but radio ate them up. His best was a surprise hit in 2000, "The Little Girl" about child abuse, not the kind of material Montgomery tended to sing about, but he did so exceedingly well.Two new songs are included: "Cool," a father-son song sonically similar to "The Little Girl," not a surprise considering Harley Allen had a hand in writing both and "One Day Less," a too big sounding love ballad.

While hat acts eventually were disparaged as country light, it's interesting to hear just how country Montgomery's music always has been in comparison to the current fare. His star isn't what it once was, but at least there was enough flavor to Montgomery that wasn't only vanilla.