John Michael Montgomery

April 07, 1995 at 04:00 AM EDT

With his 1992 double-platinum debut, Life’s a Dance, neo-honky-tonker John Michael Montgomery may have simply copied his idols — Hank Williams Sr., Merle Haggard, Garth Brooks — but he did it with wit and style. By the time he released the triple-platinum Kickin’ It Up in 1994, however, he was a ballad-loving cog in the music-biz machine, churning out what consultants correctly promised would be radio hits.

Now comes his weakest offering, JOHN MICHAEL MONTGOMERY (Atlantic). Ballads like ”Long As I Live” have none of the epic sweep of ”I Swear,” which won a Grammy. And the rhythm numbers — including the bluegrassy ”Sold,” in which he goes to an auction and ends up ”bidding” on a lady — are so blatantly sexist and contrived as to seem from another era. ”I’m the real thing, and I sing songs about real life,” Montgomery boasts on ”It’s What I Am.” Chalk up another fantasy to country’s mishandled poster boy of the moment. C

John Michael Montgomery

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John Michael Montgomery

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