Single Review: Montgomery Gentry, “Where I Come From”

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July 14, 2011

After being in the automatic add club for a good four years, Montgomery Gentry seems to have fallen off country radio’s map lately.  Their last big hit was two years ago, and their three most recent singles all missed the Top 20.  They’re back now for another attempt at getting back on the radio.  “Where I Come From” is the duo’s first single release under their new label home Average Joe’s Entertainment.  But it sounds like their new single “Where I Come From” is primarily trying to sound like all the Montgomery Gentry hits that came before it.

To that end, it succeeds.  You could almost call it “My Town, Part 2.”  But that makes for a single that is of limited interest from an artistic standpoint.  You will no doubt pick up on the titular similarity to a classic Alan Jackson hit, but beyond that, the similarities run shallow.  Montgomery Gentry’s “Where I Come From” lacks the character, personality, and genuine down-home charm that characterized the Alan Jackson song, and made it a radio recurrent for a whole decade.

The slick, slightly cluttered, and non-country production is the least of the problems.  For one thing, I don’t like how the song sets the tone for “us versus them” hostility right from the get-go with the opening line:  “Don’t you dare go runnin’ down my little town where I grew up, and I won’t cuss your city lights.”  From there on out, “Where I Come From” relies on all the usual rural imagery, and chest-pounding declarations of hometown pride.

They’re mainly just looking for a hit.  That much is pretty obvious.  But by relying so heavily on overused formulas, it’s like they’re running around in circles in terms of creativity.  There’s no demonstration of a “What’s next” artistic vision.

It’s not really good.  It’s not really bad.  It’s just another product of the Nashville hitmaking machine.

Written by Dallas Davidson and Rodney Clawson

Grade:  C

Listen:  Where I Come From

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  1. ShannonNo Gravatar says:

    Nice to see you on country universe Ben! I continually read your 1-10 blog, but had tech issues that wouldn’t let me comment!

    This is a spot on review! I really like Montgomery Gentry’s early stuff. I lump them into the same category as Rascal Flatts for me… some good songs (primarily from their early releases), but their recent stuff has been too forced and borderline annoying.

  2. bobNo Gravatar says:

    I have to agree with your rating. The last song of theirs I liked was “Back When I Knew It All”. Also liked “Some People Change”, “Speed” and a few others that I bought individually on i-Tunes. I don’t have any of their albums.

  3. Ben FosterNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks, Shannon! I appreciate you reading The 1-to-10. We’ll hopefully be able to address the commenting issues, but in the meantime, it’s nice to finally get to hear from you here.

  4. DevinNo Gravatar says:

    I’ve been pretty bummed that Montgomery Gentry has fallen off like this. They didn’t always release the best songs (a lot of cliche’d, country pride type songs like this one) but there were some promising moments there. Back When I Knew It All was pretty decent, and Long Line of Losers was very good, in my opinion. I just feel like mainstream country needs a solid duo now that Brooks and Dunn are no more and Sugarland has flown the coop, as far as wanting to make “country” music anymore. MG could recover and take that place, but this first step back doesn’t give me a whole lot of hope (even though this will probably do okay at radio…).

  5. Joseph BrownellNo Gravatar says:

    With the recent announcement the Eddie and his ‘Where is he now’ brother John Michael Montgomery will be joining forces on upcoming projects, I am surprised to hear a new single from MG. As Devin points out there were a couple promising moments (Deana Carter had promising moments, Jo Dee Messina had promising moments hell Doug Stone had promising moments) but Montgomery Gentry never had the chance to fill the void left by Brooks and Dunn. As there has never been another Alabama, Brooks and Dunn was a moment in time that can never be recreated.

    As for Sugarland flying the coop on country music- I am not sure I have ever heard them say they didn’t want to make country music anymore. While I didn’t quite understand or appreciate all of The Incredible Machine, I respected their decision to make an album reflective of their musical influences. In any given day I can listen to Pam Tillis followed by Florence and The Machine and today even gave that new Demi Lovato track a spin. Musicians draw inspiration from their cumulative experiences and with any knowledge of Kristian’s or Jennifer’s previously recorded material IM wasn’t such a big surprise.

  6. TomNo Gravatar says:

    …if the bikes’ front tyres were flat on that picture up there, it would be a match made on a parking lot.

  7. DevinNo Gravatar says:

    @Joseph

    I’d have to go look up the exact quote, but I believe Jennifer Nettles said something along the lines of “they don’t want to be defined by a single genre”. Essentially, we just want to make music and don’t care if it’s country. That’s all well and good, but when you go from releasing great country material (Stay, etc) to a dud like The Incredible Machine that scarcely has anything resembling country on it, then well….maybe you should stick to what got you somewhere.

  8. Mike J.No Gravatar says:

    MG’s “window” of opportunity has long since passed. They had their chance about 6-7 years ago, when Big & Rich hit it big and became the seemingly next big thing.

    Obviously, the egos didn’t work with B&R (despite their weak attempt at a comeback recently), but it’s to the point now that MG are simply getting too old and stuck in the same rut of releasing songs that they think will fit with radio, instead of releasing good songs that inspire listeners to pick up their album.

    “Cold One Comin’ On”, “Lonely and Gone”, and “My Town” were fresh and needed. Ever since then, they’ve tried to channel the Toby Keith drinkin’ genre and looked – unsuccessfully – for that “My Town 2.”

    I would agree with earlier posters that “Back When I Knew It All” and “Long Line of Losers” have been recent standouts, but not enough to take them out of the “Eh….” group in the middle of the country charts.

    They’ve missed their window to be a mega-duo, but that doesn’t mean they can’t salvage some pride by releasing better songs than this.

  9. BrianNo Gravatar says:

    Why is it a sin to be proud of where your from? or “Us vs them” as you put it? Dont you watch tv or the news and listen to the non country people always talk down about those that live in the country as if we are nothing but dumb hicks and on and on and on? Country people are proud to live where they live and proud that it IS DIFFERENT from the city. This whole idea of that country people cant sing about what they know is silly.

    I love country music and love reading the country blogs but i have to say im getting really tired of the bashing on “country pride or the rural imagery used in songs. Ya’ll must be the same people that complained that there was to much steel guitar or fiddle, and the non-country crowd wont buy it. Now its un cool or old school to wear a cowboy hat because we have artist that used to wear hats taking them off at the advise of new management that come from where?…Hollywood? Its crap.

    We need more artist flying the country flag, not the opposite. I dont listen to country radio anymore because its nothing but adult contemporary top 40 style. We are letting the non country people dilute what has made country music great. Political correctness has seeped into country music and that is whats wrong with country music today.

    Sorry for that rant, but had to put my .02 in.

  10. DevinNo Gravatar says:

    Brian, it’s not the use of “country pride or rural imagery” that is wrong, in and of itself. It’s how it’s done.

    The example many people use is Loretta Lynn singing “Coal Miner’s Daughter” as it was full of country living type things, but it was great because it was her real life, it was believable.

    When someone like Justin Moore sings his 9th different song about country, country, country, at some point you question whether he has anything relevant to say about country life, outside of the fact that it exists. And then there’s the other offenders who sing about farming and driving tractors and have probably never set foot on a farm in their life.

    So it’s not that the country pride and rural life and what not is bad to sing about. People just want a little bit of creativity and authenticity. That’s not so much to ask.

  11. RowdyRedNo Gravatar says:

    From the song:

    ”Don’t you dare go runnin’ down my little town where I grew up, and I won’t cuss your city lights.”

    Really useful way to start a conversation, guys. Look, I’ve lived in the city and the country. There are great aspects to both. Frankly, I don’t hear all the country put-downs on TV that Brian mentioned, but I’ll tell you right now that coming straight out of the gate with “fightin’ words” is no way to create a dialog.

    I couldn’t agree more with Devin about Justin Moore, whose current hit “If Heaven Weren’t So Far Away” is about the most dumbass thing I’ve ever heard. Heaven is not open for daypasses for a reason, dude. Guys like you might want to turn up unannounced with your personal bucket list of heroes to hassle.

    And, um, heaven probably doesn’t look just like your home town, and folks’ immortal souls won’t look exactly like flesh-and-blood them, either. But some people think inane songs like that — or the fierce defense of dirt roads/gettin’drunk ditties — are “real” country music because they perpetuate sterotypes and do nothing to advance the art form culturally.

    Billy Currington is an artist who mixes it up with great success. His song “I’ve Got A Feeling” had an undeniable country sound but a lyric that can go downtown with the best of ‘em. And “People Are Crazy” spoke to pretty much everyone with a sense of humor and justice. What I mean is, the message need not be so narrow to qualify as a great country song. But a great song is a great song, period. The song above is not one of those.

  12. Ben FosterNo Gravatar says:

    @Brian

    It’s not a sin to be proud of where you come from, and I don’t automatically dismiss all songs about small towns and country livin’ and whatnot. You may have noticed that I spoke positively of the Alan Jackson hit of the same title. And as Devin pointed out, artists like Loretta Lynn have been able to sing about where they come from, while producing genuinely unique and memorable art in doing so.

    My main problem with this song is that it brings nothing new or unique of its own to the table, so it just seems to run together with a slew of similarly-themed tunes. These days, I hear so many of these types of songs that all sound the same to me, all using the same imagery, and hitting all of the same bases. Country music can’t retain its identity, or remain a strong artistic force if it’s dominated by generic, interchangable songs about small-town country life.

    I’m not familiar with non-country people in the news talking bad about country folks, but I’ve always disliked country pride anthems that carry an air of hostility toward urban culture. I feel such an attitude short-changes the universally appreciable elements of great country music, and makes it seem like an exclusive club when it really isn’t like that at all. I view that opening line as a futher manifestation of a trait that I’ve long held in contempt. The fact that it opens the song gives a poor immediate impression, and sours the song further for me.

    Like I said, I wouldn’t automatically dismiss all songs that are about where somebody comes from. I look at each case individually, and evaluate its traits to determine if it’s something that I can truly respect on an artistic level. This I cannot.

    I hope this clears things up. At any rate, your two cents are always welcome. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and contributing to the discussion.

  13. RowdyRedNo Gravatar says:

    Sorry to beat this dead horse, but I must correct my earlier post. Justin Moore’s hit is not titled “If Heaven Weren’t So Far Away.” It’s called “If Heaven WASN’T So Far Away.” Just great — a totally pointless grammatical error. I know JM didnd’t write the song, but it’s completely baffling to me why there’s a deliberate attempt to dumb down the thing just to solidify the rural-hick stereotype. Way to go, author. Thank you on behalf of the whole genre.

  14. Joseph BrownellNo Gravatar says:

    @Devin

    You have taken your Jennifer nettles quote and then paraphrased it in the next line to suit your argument. Some of the greatest artists have crossed genre lines. Dolly Parton made waves in the pop world and even released bluegrass albums that covered such artists as Led Zepplin and Collective Soul. Emmylou Harris has recorded music popular not only in the country format but pop/rock as well. Shania Twain not only recorded a pop version of her UP cd but also a Bollywood inspired version of the disc. Great music and great artists transcend genre lines and in themselves genres morph, change and evolve over time. What was considered country 25 years ago is not what passes as country music today but that is the beauty of music– each artist taking bits and pieces from those who have come before them and inspired them and infusing their sound with those influences.

    I am glad you used Stay as an example as a great country song. Whether or not it was meant to be a country song is debatable. It was written by Jennifer sometime prior to 2003 (at least a full year before Sugarland’s debut album dropped) as she was performing it as a solo artist in such clubs as Eddies Attic (along with her other southern rock/folk music).

    While I have consistently said I didn’t get the entire Incredible Machine album, I think it is unfair to knock an artist for making music which is reflective of their tastes and influences and even more unfair for someone to take a quote about not wanting to be defined by a single genre and insisting that “essentially we just want to make music and don’t care if it’s country.”

  15. DevinNo Gravatar says:

    I’m not knocking them for making music that is true to them. Far from it. But they used the country genre as a vehicle to launch themselves. Whether anyone thinks they were all that country to begin with (I certainly think they were country enough by today’s standards), to just abandon the genre at the peak of their popularity just seems wrong to me.

    Maybe they weren’t country to begin with. Jennifer Nettles twang isn’t really all that authentic. And Kristian Bush doesn’t exactly come across to me as someone who’s a country musician/song writer. I don’t care what genre they want to be or what genre they really are; good music is good music, so more power to them. But it just bothers me that they wanted to be country as long as it was convenient and then when the conditions were right, they release The Incredible Machine and in a way, leave country music by the wayside (or maybe country music is leaving them by the wayside, because after ‘Stuck Like Glue’, nothing else from that CD has been successful).

    Off topic. Oh well. Sorry.

  16. RowdyRedNo Gravatar says:

    Back to Montgomery Gentry: My personal favorite MG song is “Lucky Man,” which is the polar opposite of the confrontational stuff they churned out most of the time. But the imagery and sentiment of Lucky Man is a far more eloquent defense of the common man than all those soundalike war cry anthems combined.

    Likewise, “Some People Change” was a fantastic testament to tolerance, as well as the blessings of living a positive life. THAT is the kind of music that left an impression on me, not the umpteenth don’t-mess-with-my-countryness anthem stamped out of the stereotype machine.

    Radio needs to stop celebrating those alienation anthems. But I ain’t holdin’ my breath — I just ain’t buyin’.

  17. Ben FosterNo Gravatar says:

    I enjoyed “Lucky Man.” It was simple in the right ways, and the understative production suited it well.

  18. willNo Gravatar says:

    How ’bout “Hillbilly Shoes” and “What do you think about that” those are some real kick #ss songs with great guitars, vocals although the lyrics may not be the greatest I love these songs.

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