The last time John Michael Montgomery performed in the immediate area was a good decade or more ago when he headlined a nearly sold-out concert at the Allentown Fairgrounds.

Last night, he performed at Penn's Peak in Jim Thorpe, singing most of his number one hits. It's a comeback for the star who was a commander on the charts in the 90s but then had to take time off for surgeries and other personal matters.

He battled a little hoarseness last night, but for the most part was his old self and got a warm reception from the audience.

It was obvious the two favorite songs of the night were "Life's A Dance," which became an audience participation for him last night, and "Sold (the Grundy County Auction)," which was his closing tune.

Opening for Montgomery was Nicole Donatone, a Penn's Peak Radio host and a talented individual who is gearing up for her own concert performances in the near future.

Montgomery, brother of Eddie Montgomery from the Montgomery Gentry duo, wore a black Western hat, blue jeans, and a Western shirt. He opened the concert with "Cowboy Love," which was a hit for him in 1994, followed by "Beers and Bones," which made the top 10 in 1993.

He then did "Life's A Dance," which was his first charted record in 1992 and which he said he had been playing in Lexington, Ky. in 1991 before being discovered.

Although it's one of his most popular and requested numbers, surprisingly it only made it to number four on Billboard's country charts.

A part of Penn's Peak became a dance floor when Montgomery opted to do a series of love songs including "I Love the Way You Love Me" and "I Can Love You Like That." Several couples slow-danced to the selections in the back and side areas of the venue.

Montgomery was appreciative of the opportunity to perform at Penn's Peak. He praised the venue - and plugged it's restaurant "Roadies" for its "great food."

He told the fans, "You know what I like about this place? It's out in the country. There's lots of trees, streams, and fish." He said he might visit the area sometime when he isn't performing just to check out the fishing streams.

He said earlier in the day he had been to the local Wal-mart and without his signature hat he was unnoticed.

While best known for his ballads, he said he grew up listing to Lynryd Skynyrd and other rock 'n roll performers. He pulled out a blue-and-white guitar and did a four-minute Stevie Ray Vaughan selection.

Other selections he sang included "I Swear," "Rope the Moon," and the touching ballad "The Little Girl."

He got great fan reaction from his patriotic number "Letters from Home," which in 2003 made it to number 2 and was his last song to reach the top 10.

Of course "Sold" was the song most people were waiting for and he kept it for last. The song is an up-tempo number about the "Grundy County Auction Incident" during which Montgomery does an auctioneer impersonation. In the song, Montgomery is:

"Sold on the lady in the second row. She's an eight, she's a nine, she's a 10, I know. She's got ruby red lips, blond hair, blue eyes. And I'm about to bid my heart good-bye!"

Nicole Donatone

Donatone is a refreshing new talent on the local concert stage with a strong voice and a great personality.

She opened with the LeAnn Rimes hit "Blue," then sang a series of Patsy Cline selections including "I Fall to Pieces," "Crazy," and "Write Me In Care of the Blues."

Her delivery of Mary Chapin Carpenter's "I Feel Lucky" got the crowd into a good mood. It was a fantastic rendition of the song and clearly demonstrated the ability of this young singer.

Next she sang "The House That Built Me" by Miranda Lambert, then closed her segment with the old-time country favorite "Blue Moon O'er Kentucky."