Category Archives: Forgotten Hits

Forgotten Hits: John Michael Montgomery, “Friends”

Friends
John Michael Montgomery
#2
1996

Written by Jerry Holland

Every once in a while, I read something that sparks a post.  This week, it was The Boot’s countdown of the Ten Best Friend Songs in Country Music

As I scanned the list, I saw expected gems like Tim McGraw’s “My Old Friend”, along with curious selections such as Shania Twain’s “Come On Over.”  Even #2 on the list was questionable: Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places” is as much about friendship as “The Dance” is about the Fox Trot.

Left off the list completely is the country song that I think best describes the nature of friendship.  John Michael Montgomery’s “Friends” may not have the scope and death of Plato’s Lysis, but it captures the essence of friendships as well as anything else I’ve seen this side of ancient Greek philosophy.

The framework of the song is that a woman has told Montgomery that she just wants to be friends, which he describes as “a newly sharpened blade” and “a dagger to the heart of the promises we made.”  Well-written stuff, to be sure, but not exactly ground that wasn’t already efficiently covered by Lobo.

It’s in the chorus, when he describes what he fears their relationship will dwindle down to, that friendship is perfectly defined:

Friends get scattered by the wind
Tossed upon the waves
Lost for years on end

Friends
Slowly drift apart
They give away their hearts
Maybe call you now and then
But you wanna be just friends

As much as the artificiality of today’s social networking may obscure it – You have 864 Friends! – all friendships have an ebb and flow that is directly impacted by time, distance, and common goals and interests. Even many marriages do not survive the life changes that occur as people grow older, so a relationship as tenuously constructed as “friends” is far less likely to survive such changes.

Montgomery’s best known for his wedding standards, but I’d argue that he made his most believable and long-lasting statement on an entirely different type of relationship.

Listen: John Michael Montgomery, “Friends”

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Forgotten Hits: Sammy Kershaw, “Yard Sale”

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ater-150×150.jpg” alt=”” width=”148″ height=”148″ />Yard Sale
Sammy Kershaw
#17
1992

Written by Larry Bastian and Dewayne Blackwell

Great country songs can find heartache in the most mundane places.  For George Jones, it was “a lip print on a half-filled cup of coffee that you poured but didn’t drink.”  For Sammy Kershaw, a nineties star heavily influenced by the Possum, it was a family picnic table of discounted items.

“They’re sorting through what’s left of you and me,” he sings, and like in the Jones classic “A Good Year For the Roses,” it’s the steady observation of sights and sounds that tell the story.  As he notes that there must be half the town on the grass and on the sidewalk, he muses, “Ain’t it funny how a broken home can bring the prices down?”

It’s casually revealed that his departed love didn’t even bother to finish the laundry, as one customer picks up “two summer dresses in the backyard on the line.”  And with one more quick sale revealed – “There goes the baby’s wind-up, and the mirror down the hall,” we learn that he’s been left behind by a full family, not just a wife.

It could be maudlin in lesser hands, but Kershaw’s understated delivery matches the restraint that he must be forcing upon himself. Can’t cry in front of your customers, but the pain is evident as he notes that his very reason for being is just a good bargain to everyone else around him “paying yard sale prices for each golden memory.”

This single wasn’t a huge radio hit, but it helped power his debut album to gold and eventually platinum.  There was simply too much good stuff in 1992 competing for those radio slots.  But it’s stood the test of time more than the other three hits from his debut album, all of which charted higher. It’s worth rediscovering,  or discovering for the first time if you missed it.

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