“It's a chemistry that's worked for years. We have two separate singing styles that when they come together, they're very identifiable. It doesn't get old or get sterile. The back and forth between our vocals definitely keeps you listening and keeps you interested in the song. – Troy Gentry
From “Hillbilly Shoes” to “Headlights,” Montgomery Gentry has become one of the most identifiable duos in the history of country music—as much for their outlaw-meets-gentleman sensibilities, their yin and yang personalities and their intensely energetic live performances as that balance of voices that gives their brand of country an edge or their version of Southern rock a softer place to fall. This chemistry has been reacting for over 15 years. After nearly a decade and a half, Montgomery Gentry continues to draw door-busting crowds into their concerts and release albums that stay true to the Kentucky country music movement they helped define.
That doesn't mean that the duo has an “if it ain't broke, don't fix it” attitude or has become complacent. That isn't the case at all. Once again, the duo has been working with Michael Knox (Rebels On The Run), and they have collectively embraced the ever-changing environment of country music while remaining true to their signature sound. However, that's what Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry have always done, and that practice has positioned them as trailblazers for contemporary country. A modest Troy scoffs at the notion, but says, “We're going to continue to do the same music that we always have, and if that puts us in that leadership role, then so be it. I definitely want to be the one on the front end and not trying to copy something else that's already been done.”
They won’t and they haven’t. Since breaking into the format in 1999, Montgomery Gentry has been a representative of the workingman, releasing blue-collar anthems for what Eddie calls, “the good, the bad, the ugly and the party on the weekend.” But the songs are about more than just factory workers who like to blow-off a little steam. They dig deeper. They’re about passion: for doing a good job, for working hard and playing harder, for being an honorable person, for loving your God, your country, your family and your life. Even on their newest album, FOLKS LIKE US, the song “That’s Just Living” embraces a life of passion:
They may look like scars to you, some of my life’s best tattoos, the wear and tear, the black and blue, that’s just living. It goes to show you paid your dues, those you win and those you lose, all the way with no excuse, that’s just living.
While “That’s Just Living” is about living hard, “Better For It” is more about loving hard, and for Troy, the song is somewhat biographical. “It kind of still tells the story. I still struggle with some of the demons on the road, with the partying; but I know at home, I’ve got someone that anchors me and keeps me humble and keeps me down to earth and is there for me when I need it.”
I’m still a rock and roller, there’s a devil on my shoulder, but every time I hold her, I’m better for it.
And in between the living and loving hard, there are the songs that describe what they do best—odes to the country lifestyle like the title track, “Folks Like Us.”
We’re scattered out on rural routes everywhere, from California to the Carolines. Flag-waving, Jesus- praying, mama loving, don’t care, redneck, white shirt, blue jean kind... We’re dream-chasing, beer-drinking, raise ‘em up if you’re thinking this old world ain’t got enough boot- wearing, God-fearing folks like us.
Despite their success, Eddie and Troy remain close to the folks like them—not just family and friends, but their family of fans. In fact, they feel a responsibility to those who have elevated their career to the level where they have earned ACM and CMA Awards, and sold several million albums and been honored with memberships into the Grand Ole Opry and, in April 2015, the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame. Troy explains, “We’ve always been about cutting songs that everybody can identify with and at any given moment go, ‘Hey, that’s me and they get where I’m at right now,’ and maybe get some kind of peace or something that they can grab onto and go, ‘That’s cool that they know exactly what I’m going through’ or ‘Man, they like to party and have a great time on the weekend, just like me.’” Eddie is in agreement with his partner. “I think it’s what a lot of people can identify with when they see us live on stage or they’re listening to an album. They’re like, ‘They’ve actually lived this,’” he says before laughing and adding, “Some things we wish we wouldn’t have done, but sometimes we do it again.”
Life has certainly dealt both members of Montgomery Gentry some blows. Their first record deal ended, another came and went, and now they have made a new home with Blaster Records. But the career hiccups were secondary to the personal crisis. A now healthy Eddie was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2010. Troy recently announced his wife, Angie, is successfully undergoing treatment for breast cancer. But through it all, they have remained resolute in their commitment to their family, their fans, and to each other. And it’s that relationship—the brotherly bond between Eddie and Troy—that is nostalgically captured in the album’s “Two Old Friends.”
Two old friends, bearing scars, hasn’t changed who they are deep down.
Deep down, they haven’t changed in holding the things that are most important to them at the forefront of their focus, but looking back Troy admits, they have undergone some transformation. “Every now and then it feels like it’s just been a few days ago, a few weeks ago since we got started; but looking back through photographs and listening to the older albums and stuff, you can definitely feel some maturing and some distance in between the club days and where we are now.” Eddie continues, “We’re still who we are at the roots. I reckon, hopefully, you let it branch out a little bit and you learn. You live and learn, so that’s what we’ve tried to do.”
If Montgomery Gentry sounds more serious than you thought they might be, it is only because they take their role in country music quite seriously. They work with some of Nashville’s biggest hit songwriters to help them maintain their musical integrity. Writers like Jeffrey Steele, Tony Martin, Wendell Mobley, David Lee Murphy, Craig Wiseman, Chris Stapleton and Brett James. Working with these renowned writers has paid off as a new generation of fans join them in their meet & greet lines. Troy smiles broadly, “We are now starting to see people who are bringing pictures of their first concert their mom brought them to when they were 15, 16 years old and now they’re 20, 21. It’s pretty amazing to transition from the mom and dad who were the fan and now the son or daughter continues to be a fan this many years later.”
That means this duo isn’t about to throw in the towel. Heck, why would they with the new fans they’re bringing to the format and they’re still just having a great time? “Just getting on that stage and hanging out with everybody and getting to be able to do it different places all over the world,” says Eddie. “There’s nothing like it. I’ve done a lot of stuff in my life and I still ain’t found nothing that gives me a rush like that.” Troy nods adding, “I think with the success we’ve had under our belt, we’ll be able to do it as long as we want to; and that’s what we came in to do. We didn’t want to be an overnight success like acts that have one or two hits and then go away. We wanted the longevity like Waylon, Willie, Charlie, Cash, Kristofferson. All those cats; and they weren’t about No. 1 hits all the time. They had enough success with their music to be appreciated, to be able to play as long as they wanted to, and they did it the way they wanted to. To still be out this long and doing what we’re doing, we’ve been very blessed and we’re very thankful to get another opportunity to run another one [album] up the charts.”
And with FOLKS LIKE US, Montgomery Gentry add another milestone into their journey.
Troy GentryHometown: Lexington, Kentucky Birthday: April 5 Hobbies: Outdoor sports, hunting, fishing, horseback riding, motorcycle riding Early influences: George Jones, Randy Travis, Hank Williams, Jr., Merle Haggard Was an avid country radio listener as a youngster and loved listening to George Jones on his dad’s eight track. First Professional Appearances: As a teenager Troy began doing guest vocals with area bands and eventually landed a gig with a local Lexington, KY group. Due to his outstanding talent, Troy won the 1994 Jim Beam National Talent Search in Nashville, which led to opening slots for Patty Loveless, John Michael Montgomery, Tracy Byrd and Eddie Rabbitt.
When Troy isn't on the road you might find him in the gym, taking his youngest daughter to school or hanging around the house with wife Angie. Both Eddie and Troy value their time with family off the road but can't wait to get back out on the stage.
Eddie MontgomeryHometown: Lancaster, Kentucky Birthday: September 30 Hobbies: Hunting, fishing, motorcycle riding, sports, horseback riding Early influences: Lynyrd Skynyrd, Hank Williams, Jr., Charlie Daniels, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard First Professional Appearances: At around five years old, Eddie began performing with his parents’ band “Harold Montgomery & Kentucky River Express”. When Eddie reached his teens he joined his dad’s band full-time and replaced his mom, Carol, as the group’s drummer.
When Eddie isn't on the road you might find him working on his farm in Kentucky or at a Kentucky Wildcats game. Eddie is a huge UK fan and you can find him in the stands for most any Wildcats game whether it be basketball or football.