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The Very Best of John Michael Montgomery

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Generous collection of commercial honky tonk and ballads

    The son of a Kentucky musician whose own Nashville dreams never came true, John Michael Montgomery kept a bit of his daddy's hometown grit, even as he put together an impressive string of Nashville-produced hit albums and singles. This generous compilation offers twenty tracks, and collects nearly every significant hit single that Montgomery's had in his twelve year recording career. ¶ Montgomery's first hits, the ballads "Life's a Dance" and "I Love the Way You Love Me," had a middle-of-the-road sweetness that hit an emotional chord with both record buyers and award givers -- the second single was the ACM song-of-the-year for 1993. The love songs continued in 1994 with, "I Swear," as did the awards (ACM song-of-the-year and single-of-the-year). As with most of Montgomery's ballads, the country flavor is to be found almost entirely in his vocals. There's a hint of steel, but the drums-guitars-bass-keyboard backing could just as easily host a pop vocalist (in fact, the song was covered by the R&B group All-4-One and netted a grammy). It's the slight edge in Montgomery's voice, the phrasings, and the down-home sentimentality of the lyrics that brings his slow songs into the country arena. ¶ Later in 1994 his singles began to capitalize on Montgomery's uptempo numbers, charting with the rowdy country-rocker "Be My Baby Tonight" and the mid-tempo "If You've Got Love." Both tracks kick up the twangy guitars and fiddle of a honky-tonk bred backing. His releases continued mix ballads and up-tempo tunes, including the lightning-quick auctioneer's cadence of "Sold (The Grundy Country Auction Incident)" and the contemplation of his father's death, "I Miss You a Little." The latter, unfortunately, is missing from this collection. ¶ By 1996 Montgomery was mostly charting ballads, variously edging more towards the center and bringing a bigger dose of his country sound down-tempo. "Angel in My Eyes" is more contemporary pop than country, but 1998's "Cover You in Kisses" has a superb melody anchored by a strong underline of steel and fiddle. Montgomery's last #1 single, 2000's "The Little Girl" features Alison Krauss and Dan Tyminski on harmony vocals. ¶ In addition to seven #1s (seventeen top-5s!), this collection adds "'Til Nothing Comes Between Us" from the "Pictures" album, and a pair of newly recorded tracks: the waltz-time generation gap tale "Cool," and the romantic "One Less Day." This is a terrific overview and introduction to Montgomery's hitmaking career. Though it's missing the top-5 "Cowboy Love" and top-10 "I Miss You a Little," it's probably the more complete pick over his 1997 "Greatest Hits" LP.

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