Records’ new duo Montgomery Gentry is poised and ready to blaze a brand new
trail across the country music scene and if anyone can do it, it’s this
Whether tearing it up on stage with their hard-driving harmonies or
cutting up backstage with anybody primed and ready to have a good time, Eddie
Montgomery and Troy Gentry are always operating at full tilt.
Making their indefinable but irresistible brand of authentic honky-tonking
country music – and having an absolute blast in the process – just come
naturally to these two Kentuckians.
The duo’s hardcore, raw-edges country sound – as evidenced in full glory on their Columbia Records debut album Tattoos & Scars – is as unmistakable as their distinctive personalities, and they make no apologies about the fact that they like to shake things up. They wouldn’t really know any other way, after years of burning roadhouses down with their incendiary sound all over Lexington, Ky. Known for their rowdy onstage antics, the two readily admit their show can get a little out of hand. “We do get kind of wild onstage,” admits Eddie, “so sometimes when we play in new places with the type of music we’re doing, people are like, ‘Wham! Hold on, boys, I don’t know if we want to go that far or not!’ We like to play music that sort of dares us, ‘Can we step on this side of the fence or not? Just goof ole boys doing a little bit more than the law will allow… that’s us!”
If Waylon, Willie and Haggard are the forefathers of country’s outlaw movement, Montgomery Gentry are surely its new sons, with their seamless harmonies, heartfelt lyrics, and no-holds-barred attitude. Emotion oozes out of every chord on the duo’s debut, from the lonely, haunting strains of “Trying To Survive,” to the rocking refrains of “Hillbilly Shoes.” If sincerity seeps from the vein of every song, it’s simply because both Eddie and Troy have lived what they’re singing, and they wouldn’t have it any other way. “We believe in our music so much,” says Eddie. “There’s not a song on the CD that we haven’t lived.”
Both Eddie and Troy have rich musical backgrounds to draw from and the two were friends long before they entered a Nashville studio together. Coming up through the same music scene in Kentucky, they supported each other’s efforts for years before teaming up to form Montgomery Gentry. Performing came as naturally as breathing to Eddie, who spent his formative years in his family’s band along with brother John Michael. “I basically just grew up in the honky tonks.” Remembers Eddie. “The bartender was our babysitter,” he adds, laughing. “I wouldn’t know anything else. It was a way of life for us – we had music equipment in our living room instead of furniture!”
Troy has fond memories of time spent in the living room as well, singing with his mother to old Lps. “My mom and I would sing to the record player to Elvis Presley, Tina Turner, early Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Nicks,” remembers Troy. “She loved to sing and she was the one who first got me interested in music.” The fact that performing would gain him notoriety in the halls in junior high didn’t hurt, either. “I did my first performance at a talent contest in school,” says Troy, “and that sensation of everyone patting you on the back and appreciating what you could do made me want more! In high school, I heard Randy Travis for the first time and that’s when I knew this was what I wanted to do for a living. So from there on out, I did everything I could to get myself out in front of people and be heard.”
Troy and Eddie’s first joint musical effort was as part of a band called Young Country. After two years with that band, Troy left to try his hand at a solo career. His effort materialized when he was awarded the top trophy in the Jim Beam National Talent Contest in 1994 and earned a slot opening for acts like Patty Loveless, Tracy Byrd and John Michael Montgomery. But he found Nashville a bit tougher to crack. “I knocked on a bunch of door in Nashville,” he remembers, “and had a bunch of them closed back in my face.”
When Troy began to commiserate with Eddie about how difficult it was getting a break, the two started toying with the idea of working together. And after wowing the crowds together night after in Lexington, they began to realize they had stumbled onto something really special. “We had worked together so well for so long,” admits Troy, “and knew each other so well that I knew it couldn’t be anything but right.”
One listen to Montgomery Gentry’s CD confirms the duo’s compatibility without a doubt. Their voices blend like smooth sipping whiskey and cool, clean ice, and their songs go downs just as easy. The two glide from a rebellious, defiant, gritty rocker like “Daddy Won’t Sell the Farm,” to the vulnerable, achingly humbling ballads “If A Broken heart Could Kill” will ease. They shift gears yet again with the swamp groove of the boisterous “Trouble Is,” and put the pedal all the way to the floor on the ultra-infectious romp “All Night Long,” which features vocals by the song’s co writer, the legendary Charlie Daniels. And just when it appears they’ve pushed it to the absolute limit, they charm with a quiet, tender, thought-provoker lie the album’s title track, Tattoos & Scars.
Though the project is tinged with Eddie and Troy’s collective influences throughout, the sound is unmistakably 100% theirs. They attribute that purity, in part, to the talents of producer Joe Scaife, who has captured audio magic with artists like Billy Ray Cyrus and K.T. Oslin. Scaife understood their desire to remain true to their own sound in a time when music often gets watered down for the sake of security of playing by the rules. “We want our music to be real and from the heart,” say’s Troy. “We like Nashville, and hope it’s a place that will let us just be us. No vanilla, no doctoring. Just the music we like to make.”
“We want to be true to ourselves and to our music,” adds Eddie. “And we want to do music that’s still played in 20 years from now – that’s important to us. We have to do it our way, though. Our saying is, ‘There’s a right way, a wrong way, and the Montgomery Gentry Way!’ And the way I see is, no matter what, we’re going to have fun with it, one way or another.”