givin' the fans what they want

Kickin' It Up (Atlantic)
John Michael Montgomery

By Allen Howie

Kickin' It Up is another pleasant serving of hit-bound country tunes from John Michael Montgomery. The singer picks his material well, handling both dance numbers and ballads with equal ease.

With the help of a competent band of Nashville players, he romps through the irresistibly brisk pace of "Be My Baby Tonight," the blue-collar bluster of "Friday at Five" and the title track, and the easy gait of "If You've Got Love."

But it's ballads that make Montgomery's sizable female following weak in the knees, and Kickin' It Up offers a healthy dose, from the way the pure melody of "I Swear" melts into his warm baritone and love waltzes slowly out of his grasp in "All in My Heart," to the gentle twist in "Oh to Dance" and "Rope the Moon," stumbling only on the clumsy "Full Time Love."

If you're already a fan, this new album is a generous helping of Montgomery's smooth, familiar sound. For the uninitiated, it serves as a near-perfect introduction to some of the best that mainstream country music has to offer.