Picks and Pans Review: Letters from Home

UPDATED 05/31/2004 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 05/31/2004 at 01:00 AM EDT

John Michael Montgomery

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You don't automatically classify John Michael Montgomery as a good ol' boy. Yet the high point of this album is "Goes Good with Beer," a clever, jaunty paean to the pleasures of the versatile brew. Also striking: the title song by Tony Lane and David Lee, a sentimental ballad about the emotional power of mail for those in a war zone (it's reminiscent of Gene Autry's World War II hit "At Mail Call Today"), and "Cool," an unusually thoughtful meditation on the way one's idea of what's admirable changes with age. The best thing about this eclectic mix of material is that it allows Montgomery to demonstrate his ability to get a little rough-and-tumble as well as wax romantic and cerebral. If his 12-year career has proved anything, it's that he is more a reliable workhorse than a one-trick pony. And his coproducer, guitarist Byron Gallimore, knows how to help him get the most out of his cowboy hatful of tricks.

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