John Michael Montgomery
The title of John Michael Montgomery's new album could be viewed as a comment on the four years that have passed since the Central Kentucky country hero last issued an album. But the instant the wiry steel guitar licks and brassy bravado on the opening What Did I Do kick the honky-tonk fervor into gear, you sense Montgomery's music has not changed a fraction as much as the marketing behind it.
Time Flies is Montgomery's first recording as a free agent after 12 years of hit major-label recordings for Warner Bros. and Atlantic. As the inaugural release on Montgomery's own label, Stringtown, what sits in the grooves is familiar, welcoming country-pop from the electric barroom twang of Mad Cowboy Disease to All in a Day, a ballad that sports one of Montgomery's most honestly plaintive vocal performances in ages.
Only With My Shirt On, a yarn about encountering romance with a middle-age spread, falls flat — and that's due more to the low aim of the lyrics than Montgomery's singing.
Longtime ally Byron Gallimore remains at the production helm with Montgomery, giving Time Flies a confident sheen that is radio-friendly and then some. But making an imprint on country radio as an indie act is always a tough task. Add to that radio's increasing indifference to many veteran artists and the road back to the country Top 10 might be a long one for Montgomery.
Commercial estimations aside, Time Flies is a confident, consistent work that stands up to anything the airwaves currently have to offer.