Since their debut in 1999, Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry have been a cornerstone of the most important movement in country music since the Outlaws. Just as Waylon, Willie and the rest kicked open the genre's doors in the 1970s, Montgomery Gentry has helped kick-start 21st century country.
The elements consist of straightforward lyrics reflecting the realities of modern life, a tour and stage show that are completely inclusive of their audience, and a gritty rock edge that has captured the imaginations of untold millions. Along with like-minded artists like Gretchen Wilson, Hank Jr. and Big & Rich, they have joined forces with rockers like Lynyrd Skynyrd and Kid Rock to help rewrite the modern musical landscape.
Theirs is a world of blue-collar anthems, tales of life, work, love, loss and patriotism balanced by the hard-partying spirit that takes the edge off --"the good, the bad, the ugly, and the party on the weekends," as Montgomery has long capsulated it.
"People recognize the realism in our music," says Gentry. "We're not trying to candy coat anything. Who we are is who we are. It's all about being real, being yourself, and playing real music to the people."
For Montgomery Gentry, the upshot of that connection with their audience--their "friends," as Montgomery invariably calls them--has been milestone after milestone in an enviable career trajectory. "Some People Change," the leadoff single & title track from their stellar new collection, became the fastest-rising in their already impressive catalog. It followed "She Don't Tell Me To," the single from 2005's greatest hits collection, Something To Be Proud Of: The Best of 1999-2005, a song that hit the Top 5 on the country charts, while the albums' title track reached #1 on both the Billboard and R&R singles charts. In addition, the pair was CMT's Most Played Duo of 2005.
Now, with Some People Change, Montgomery Gentry takes yet another important step forward. Some People Change is an incredibly rich collection that reflects the continued maturing of Montgomery Gentry on a number of levels. There is, first of all, a deeper exploration of the issues they have always deemed important.
"If you look at the direction Montgomery Gentry has gone," says Gentry, "we started out with the hard-driving, in-your-face, honky-tonk, hell-raising style of Tattoos & Scars and Carrying On, and carried that over into more of a working man's album on My Town. We spoke a lot about our military, the places we grew up, the good and bad, songs Americans could listen to and identify with. This album goes even farther and brings it back to family and religious beliefs, and keeps those ties to the military. We talk about our life growing up, about maturing, and reflecting on where we've come from."
They have deepened their relationship with some of Nashville's best songwriters, particularly with Rivers Rutherford and Jeffrey Steele, who co-wrote seven of the album's songs and shared production duties on most of the project with veteran producer, Mark Wright.
Among others, Steele contributed the hook-heavy "Hey Country" and the karma-laden rocker "Tears Are Comin'," while Rutherford's efforts include the nostalgic "Redder Than That," and "Free Ride In The Fast Lane," which Montgomery Gentry declare as particularly true-to-life. Rutherford and Steele both collaborated, with Gary Nicholson, on the father-son epic "Twenty Years Ago."
"Their track record speaks for itself," says Montgomery of the dynamic songwriting duo. "They were the number one songwriters of the year, but from our perspective, what's most important is that they get us. They're a lot like us."
Perhaps most importantly, Some People Change showcases more than ever before the writing talents of both Gentry and Montgomery, with the former contributing the family-of-man anthem "Takes All Kinds" as well as "If You Wanna Keep An Angel," an ode to earning the love of a good woman, while the latter offers "A Man's Job," about come-uppance for a wayward spouse, and "Clouds," which Montgomery co-wrote with Steele and Tony Mullins and which turns the loss of his father and his son into one of the most achingly heartfelt tributes ever committed to song.
If the continued rise in quality is evident throughout the CD, it is certainly not coincidental.
"We're always trying to better ourselves both in the studio and on stage," says Gentry. "We keep honing our skills from doing it so often, but really, we're a work in progress."
It is a journey that began in northern Kentucky. Montgomery grew up in his family's band, where he and his brother John Michael spent their formative years in honky-tonks, falling in love with the music of Hank Jr., Charlie Daniels, Willie, Waylon, Haggard, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Influenced by his mothers' love of music, Gentry favored George Jones, Haggard, Randy Travis and Hank Jr. and by high school, was in his first talent contest.
The Montgomery brothers and Gentry joined forces in a band called Young Country until John Michael landed a record deal. His brother joined his band and Gentry went solo, winning the national Jim Beam Talent Contest in 1994. When Eddie returned to Kentucky, he and Gentry found themselves on stage together at various charity concerts and they decided to get back together.
"It just seemed like the more we were playing together around town, the bigger our following got," says Gentry. Nashville heard the buzz, and Columbia Records signed them. A string of hits soon followed, including "Hillbilly Shoes," "Lonely And Gone," "Daddy Won't Sell The Farm," "She Couldn't Change Me," "My Town," "Speed," and "Hell Yeah," "Gone" and "If You Ever Stop Loving Me."
They have performed for well over a million fans & prior to headlining tours, they were on Kenny Chesney's "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems" tours in 2002 and 2003, and the Brooks & Dunn Neon Circus & Wild West Show in 2001. They were named the CMA's Duo of the Year in 2000, and received that year's American Music Award for Favorite New Artist--Country, the Academy of Country Music Award for Top New Vocal Group or Duo," and the 2000 and 2001 Radio & Records Readers' Poll award for Top Country Duo.
As impressive as their past has been, their future looks even brighter.
"It's just amazing how the crowds keep getting bigger," says Gentry. "They know all the hits. They're singing along with us. It's just incredible.
"There's no rush like it," adds Montgomery, "no drug, no alcohol, that can give you that kind of rush when you see 65,000 people just screaming back a song at you. It's like, 'Is this real? If I'm dreaming, don't wake me up'."
If they share with their audience a love of good music, they also share an appreciation for the nation's veterans and active duty personnel. For Montgomery Gentry, that is something that dates back to the release of their first record. They have done many shows for military personnel through the years, but in 2006 for the first time they were able to travel to visit troops in Kuwait, Iraq and Germany as part of a USO tour. It was a journey that affected both deeply.
"It was an eye-opening experience for me," says Gentry, "seeing what our soldiers are doing to battle terrorism and help the Iraqis and Afghanis gain a better way of life."
"I don't ever want to hear anybody say, 'I don't know if this generation has got what it takes,'" says Eddie. "We've got the baddest men and women in the world & knowing that they've got our backs reminds me every day why America is the greatest country in the world and will always be the greatest."
Back on U.S. soil, they continue to take their music and their appreciation for American life to fans in city after city, where differences blur in the face of overwhelming similarities.
"It doesn't matter what kind of accent they've got," says Montgomery, "when the music hits and the lights come on, they're all the same--rednecking and ready to have a good time."
If there is a secret to it all, it is an open one. These are two men living by the creeds that infuse their music. "Stay true to yourself and hold your ground," Gentry says simply. "And dare to be different. Through it all, if you can lay your head on your pillow at night and be comfortable with what you're doing, you're doing alright."