My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Single Review: George Strait – ‘Every Little Honky Tonk Bar’

George Strait may have retired from touring but he is keeping his promise to keep on recording. This is the lead single for his upcoming new album, promisingly entitled Honky Tonk Time Machine. ‘Every Little Honky Tonk Bar’ is a cheerful up-tempo tribute to neighbourhood drinking spots, written by Strait with son Bubba and old friend Dean Dillon.

The first verse is actually a rather downbeat lyric , but the vibe is positive and bright:

Whiskey is the gasoline that lights the fire that burns the bridge
Ice creates the water that’s no longer runnin’ under it
Stool holds the fool that poured the whiskey on his broken heart
Cigarettes create the smoke that hides the lonesome in his eyes
The jukebox plays Hank “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”
Dance floor holds the folks tryin’ to forget who they are
And that’s what happens in every little honky tonk bar

Set to a slower melody this might have been an entirely different, sadder song, but a toe-tapping tune and briskly cheery delivery creates a positive atmosphere as we then move into a chorus and second verse celebrating the weekend party scene. Clearly the drinks have taken the first song to sink in and the protagonist has consumed enough to forget all his troubles.

backed by solid country instrumentation, I don’t see this making much headway on a ‘country’ radio which has veered as far off course as it has in recent years. However, it is a great treat for country fans, and whets the appetite for the full album. Listen now and you can download the single and a couple of other new tracks in advance of the album’s release on March 29.

Grade: A+

Advertisements

Classic Rewind: Keith Urban and Chris Janson cover JMM – ‘Sold (The Grundy County Auction)’

Classic Rewind: Porter Wagoner – ‘Be Careful Of Stones That You Throw’

Classic Rewind: Rex Allen Jr – ‘Can You Hear Those Pioneers’

Classic Rewind: Travis Tritt – ‘Anymore’

Classic Rewind: John Michael Montgomery and All4One – ‘I Swear’

Classic Rewind: Raul Malo – ‘For The Good Times’

Classic Rewind: Nanci Griffith – ‘Love At The Five And Dime’

Classic Rewind: Catherine Britt – ‘Whiskey Lullaby’

Album Review: John Michael Montgomery – ‘What I Do The Best’

JMM’s career started to take a downturn in the mid 1990s. ‘Ain’t Got Nothin’ On Us’, the lead single from his fourth album, was a sad disappointment, peaking at #15, his lowest charting single ever. It’s a shame, because it is a rather charming jazzy western swing number with some very nice fiddle. It was written by Jim Robinson and Wendell Mobley.

My favorite song on the album was rather more successful. ‘Friends’, written by Jerry Holland, reached #2. It is a beautiful sounding ballad with a pained Montgomery facing the loss of love and an ex who wants to keep him around in a non-romantic way:

You say you want to be friends
That’s a newly sharpened blade
That’s a dagger to the heart
Of the promises we made
That’s a chapter full of pain
A season full of rain
A dark and stormy night
Spent all alone

Friends get scattered by the wind
Tossed upon the waves
Lost for years on end
Friends slowly drift apart
They give away their hearts
Maybe call you now and then
But you wanna be “just friends”

You say you love me very much
And you’ll always hold me dear
Those are the sweetest words
I never wanna hear
What’s a love without desire
A flame without a fire
Can’t warm me late at night
When I need you most

A subdued opening builds in emotion and power through the song.

‘I Miss You A Little’, a rare JMM co-write, was the third single, and was anther top 10 hit. It is a downbeat song about loss which is very good. The final single from the album was ‘How Was I To Know’, which just missed the top spot but is a rather bland adult contemporary tune.

He also wrote ‘A Few Cents Short’, a very nice midpaced song about someone too hardpressed financially to contact his loved one:

Lookin’ for spare change to put gas in my car
But what I’ve found won’t get me very far
Seems lately the low times have hit me pretty hard
‘Cause I’m a few cents short from gettin’ to where you are

I’m a few cents short of holding you in my arms
And a few cents short of keepin’ us from falling apart
Ain’t it funny how the money can change our lives
‘Cause I’m a few cents short from losing you tonight

So I walked to a pay phone down the road
But a few dimes and a nickel is all I hold
The operator wants more money to place my call
But I’m a few cents short

Some lovely fiddle ornaments the song.

My favorite of the remaining tracks is the vibrant and very retro shuffle ‘Lucky Arms’, envying his ex’s new love. The title track is a very nice mid paced love song. ‘I Can Prove You Wrong’ is a tender ballad offering true love to a woman who has been hurt in the past.

In the quirky ‘Cloud 8’, written by Byron Hill and Tony Martin, the protagonist has lost in love and compares himself to those still happily on Cloud 9. ‘Paint The Town Redneck’ is quite an entertaining song about letting loose on a Friday night after a hard week’s work.

The album was certified platinum, which was a significant reduction from his previous efforts. However, it is a solid effort which I enjyed a lot.

Grade: A

Classic Rewind: Oak Ridge Boys – ‘Life’s Railway To Heaven’

A performance dedicated to the memories of country legend Don Williams and John Michael Montgomery’s brother Eddie Montgomery.

Classic Rewind: John Michael Montgomery – ‘Beer And Bones’

Classic Rewind: Porter Wagoner – ‘The Cold Hard Facts Of Life’

Classic Rewind: Loretta Lynn – ‘What’s The Bottle Done To My Baby?’

Classic Rewind: John Michael Montgomery – ‘I Love The Way You Love Me’

Classic Rewind: Bobby Bare – ‘The Streets Of Baltimore’

Classic Rewind: Merle Haggard – ‘The Roots Of My Raising’

Album Review: John Michael Montgomery – ‘Life’s A Dance’

John Michael Montgomery’s debut album was released in October 1992. It sold 3 million copies, launching him as a bona fide star, although it does not sound particularly distinctive. At the time I personally was not blown away, and to be perfectly honest it still sounds rather generic to me, but since that era of country music was a strong one, Montgomery has a decent voice and there are some good songs, it sounds much better set against today’s music.

The title track and lead single, ‘Life’s A Dance’ was a promising start for the newcomer, launching him to a #4 hit. Written by Allen Shamblin and Steve Seskin, it is a simple mid paced tune about finding your path In life by accepting whatever comes. It is agreeable listening but not all that memorable.

The follow up, ‘I Love The Way you Love Me’, written by Victoria Shaw and Chuck Cannon, was JMM’s first chart topper. It played to his greatest strengths vocally as a smoothly crooned romantic ballad, leaning in the AC direction, with instrumentation which sounds a bit dated now. A pop cover of the song by Irish boyband Boyzone was a big hit in Europe in 1998.

Finally, ‘Beer And Bones’ was less successful, peaking just outside the top 20. Written by country songwriting legend Sanger D Shafer and Lonnie Williams, it is the most hardcore honky tonk song on the album, with raw vocals.

The singles, and three other tracks, were produced by Doug Johnson. ‘When Your Baby Ain’t Around’ is pleasant mid-tempo filler. ‘Line On Love’ is quite a nice if rather generic song about life lessons learnt from growing up in the country. ‘Dream On Texas Ladies’ is a very pretty waltz which is a cover of a minor hit for Rex Allen Jr in 1984.

The remaining four tracks were produced by Wyatt Easterling. ‘A Great Memory’ is an excellent Dean Dillon/Trey Bruce song on which JMM sounds like fellow-Kentuckian Keith Whitley. Whitley’s influence is also evident on ‘Nickels And Dimes And Love’, a tender memoir of love in poverty which was later cut by Vern Gosdin. It was written by Johnny MacRae and Steve Clark, who also contributed ‘Every Time I Fall (It Breaks Her Heart)’, a tribute to a woman standing by a flawed man.

Finally, ‘Taking Off The Edge’, written by Larry Cordle and Larry Shell, is an enjoyable and rather sexy up-tempo number.

John Michael Montgomery had not quite found his own voice on this album, but it is a generally enjoyable record.

Grade: B+

Classic Rewind: George Jones – ‘Me And Jesus’

Classic Rewind: John Michael Montgomery – ‘Life’s A Dance’