Eddie Montgomery of Montgomery Gentry
Rowdily honed in honky-tonks and at parties in their Kentucky homeland, Montgomery Gentry (MG) rocked to stardom in 1999 with the dynamic collection Tattoos & Scars. Over the next 18 years, the duo had 20-plus charted singles, collected County Music Awards (CMA), Academy of Country Music (ACM) and Grammy nominations and awards with such unsubtle, blue-collar rallying cries as “Hell Yeah,” “My Town” and the irrepressible “Hillbilly Shoes.” Their No. 1 hits include “If You Ever Stop Loving Me,” “Something to be Proud Of,” “Lucky Man,” “Back When I Knew It All” and “Roll With Me.” Grand Ole Opry members since 2009, MG also belong to the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame, where they join the likes of Bill Monroe, Tom T. Hall, Skeeter Davis, Lionel Hampton and Eddie’s brother, John Michael Montgomery.
The audience might catch Eddie Montgomery taking a quick glance at an empty space beside him when he and The Wild Bunch take the stage to play the expected Montgomery Gentry hits, as well as tunes from his brand-new and mostly raucous solo debut Ain’t No Closing Me Down. Now a solo artist by tragic circumstance, Eddie always feels the presence of Troy Gentry, his honky-tonking partner. The man who is always “with” Eddie on stage and immersed in the soul of his first solo album died Sept. 8, 2017, in a helicopter crash that could have put a tragic end to Montgomery Gentry sound. Except Eddie made a promise that the MG sound would go on; which, at its heart, is what this new album is all about.
“Ain’t a day goes by that I don’t think of him,” Eddie says. “We made a promise, a deal, way back when. It was over Jim Beam. It was: If one of us goes down, we want Montgomery Gentry to go on. Keep the music going. We were a honky-tonk band, and he’s with me, and he’s always going to be.” He smiles. “We were together so much, we finished each other’s sentences and everything,” a brotherhood that remains in his solo billing: “It’s always going to be ‘Eddie Montgomery of Montgomery Gentry.’”
In fact, The Wild Bunch, the outfit that rode the range with MG for years, provides accompaniment with this album, a change from the past, when Eddie says session players would be called in. It is both a tribute to his late friend as well as the sonic bridge for the guy who hopes to carry this legacy well into the future. “I wanted to showcase our band. I wanted music that’s real and in your face.”