John Michael Montgomery

Time Flies

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It's been four years between John Michael Montgomery's Letters from Home, his final Warner Bros. album, and the independently issued Time Flies, and the veteran country singer throws a couple of curve balls to longtime listeners. Produced by Montgomery and Byron Gallimore, the album has a sound reflecting the post-2005 slickness that the ever-finicky contemporary country market calls its hallmark for this season, but never compromises the singer's trademark identity as one of the best baritones in the business. It kicks off with the rollicking rocker "What Did I Do," a ne'er-do-well's version of a love song that is more braggadocio than substance, but it's uptempo and the best excuse for a drinking song on the whole set. The more staid ballads come next, but Montgomery doesn't sound contented in them. They are full of desire, yearning, loss, regret, and devotion. "Let's Get Lost" is an empathic reassurance to a loved one who is uncomfortable in her present surroundings. The midtempo 4/4 tune is classic Montgomery, as strings, guitars, and slightly edgy fiddles rise and fall with his lines. "If You Ever Went Away," one of the slowest tunes here, is sung with desperation and humility as a B-3 and fingerpicked acoustic guitar offer ready support to the singer. Other notables on the set include the humorous honky tonk nostalgic love song "With My Shirt On," the swaggering two-step "Mad Cowboy Disease," and the devastatingly beautiful "Drunkard's Prayer." It's unlikely that Montgomery will set the charts on fire with Time Flies, but that has more to do with the youth-centric market for contemporary country than the quality of the music here, which is quite consistent and as good as anything out there. Montgomery's still got it: he's a signature performer in a generic business, and what's weird about that is that it might work against rather than for him.

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