John Michael Montgomery @ Del E. Webb Performing Arts Center
With country music's "New Traditionalist" movement of the '90s officially pushing up daisies in the wake of the current Taylor Swift/Lady Antebellum/Sugarland country/pop movement, unabashed country singers like John Michael Montgomery have been shut out of the major-city arena-tour circuit and are now playing gigs in places like Wickenburg, where Montgomery will make a two-day stand this week. Along with Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, and Clint Black, Montgomery initially released recordings, beginning with his classic 1992 debut album, Life's a Dance, that were a fiddle-and-pedal-steel-laced reaction to the lame "urban cowboy" pop/country that had overrun Nashville during much of the '80s. Brooks, Jackson, Black, and Montgomery became superstars, which left them in a quandary: They were wildly successful, but country purists derided them as "arena country." Though the inevitable backlash escaped Brooks and Jackson (who can still pack arenas), Black and Montgomery have not had a significant hit in years, and lately the name "Montgomery" usually references country duo Montgomery Gentry (Eddie Montgomery is John Michael's older brother), whose singer/douchebag Troy Gentry has made headlines for shooting a tame, captive bear named "Cubby" with a bow and arrow during a bogus wildlife hunt. But John Michael Montgomery is still plugging away and, unlike fellow '90s New Traditionalist Tim McGraw, who has changed his sound to fit the current Nashville pop trend (witness McGraw's recent chart-topper, the execrable "Felt Good on My Lips"), Montgomery is still a tried-and-true country singer, and as his latest album (2008's independent label offering "Times Flies") attests, Montgomery's rich baritone is still in fine form.
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