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After this long, he’s not going away soon

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — If you ask country balladeer John Michael Montgomery what is most important to him about his career, he will tell you it’s longevity.

“(I’m) still here … thankfully, I am. And to still be able to do something I love so much is wonderful.”

The 47-year-old Danville, Ky., native and younger brother to half of the Southern-rock country duo Montgomery Gentry – big brother Eddie Montgomery – is the smooth voice behind such radio staples as the moving “I Swear,” “I Can Love You Like That” and “I Love the Way You Love Me.”

John Michael Montgomery
With special guest Rock Sugar
WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday, March 22. Doors open at 6
WHERE: Hard Rock Hotel-Casino, 11000 Broadway SE
HOW MUCH: $20-$30 at www.hardrockcasinoabq.com, www.holdmyticket.com or call 877-747-5382

“When I go after songs,” he said in an earlier interview, “it’s almost like we’re looking for each other. It’s like digging for rocks until I find the shape I’m looking for, and one by one I see how they fit together and where it’s all going. But you’ve got to go out there and find them. I tell people that.”

Montgomery kicked off his repertoire of hits when he released his debut, “Life’s a Dance,” in the fall of 1992. The LP had heart and soul. His velvety baritone chops were convincing, and the songs told a story. It wasn’t long before the title track, “I Love the Way You Love Me” and “Beer and Bones” all soared up the Billboard country charts, resulting in the album selling more than 3 million copies.

To date, the Kentucky Music Hall of Famer, who became a member in his home state just last year, has 12 albums and a greatest-hits package under his belt. In addition, Montgomery has 15 No. 1 hits, three Country Music Association Awards, five American Country Music Awards and an American Music Award.

Sifting through hundreds of songs in order to find that magical cut is something he never shies away from. “Ninety-five percent aren’t very good … But I grew up in jobs like digging ditches, doing sewer work and putting up fences, so the work ethic is something you have to apply.”

The result is sometimes he stumbles on that one hit unexpectedly. “Like with the song ‘I Swear’ (off the sophomore album “Kickin’ It Up”),” he said. “Here, the writer I had been co-writing with knew I was looking for songs. He said, ‘Look, I wrote this a few years ago, and it’s been passed on (and pitched around), but I still believe it’s a hit. And he handed me the cassette tape.”

Sure enough, the single shot straight to No. 1.

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