John Michael Montgomery

Pictures

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Perhaps it's a sign that time is creeping along, but after ten years of success, John Michael Montgomery dilutes some of his lovable rascal persona with a more mature perspective on Pictures. The titles hint at his broadening focus: "Love and Alcohol," with its good-time beat and shouts of "Hey, bartender," admits right up front that the women get better looking with each new round. But on the title track, Montgomery offers grandkids yet to come and wedding pictures that are far from yellowed as measures of a life well spent, and on "I Wanna Be There" he similarly anticipates a future of idyllic fatherhood with his young daughter. He presents all of this with his reassuring baritone croon, backed by an idiomatically correct assembly of Nashville studio all-stars. If there's any distressing detail here, it's the formulaic writing. Each song, whether sentimental or mischievous in its intent, projects a one-dimensional image of a life concerned with nothing weightier than drinkin', dancin', drivin', or looking back on those wild days, or forward to a time when other things matter more. Attempts to push past these limits seem a little awkward; nobody who talks like the folks in these songs would say, as Montgomery does in "It Goes Like This," that some little hottie over there has a "thunderstorm of love" inside of her. On the other hand, these concerns are real to lots of people, and if they need a singer to articulate them in song, then Pictures serves that purpose.

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