Anyone expecting Columbia's country duo Montgomery Gentry to tone things down on its sophomore album is in for a surprise, as "Carrying On," due May 1, offers another heaping helping of the type of So

Anyone expecting Columbia's country duo Montgomery Gentry to tone things down on its sophomore album is in for a surprise, as "Carrying On," due May 1, offers another heaping helping of the type of Southern-rock, testosterone-fueled music that first brought the Kentucky-bred pair to the party.

And what a party it's been. Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry seemingly came out of nowhere with 1999's "Tattoos & Scars," which has now sold more than 490,000 copies in the U.S., according to SoundScan. The album produced three top-10 singles and helped Montgomery Gentry knock Brooks & Dunn off their longstanding perch as the Country Music Association duo of the year.

The success of Montgomery Gentry came via uncompromising, edgy ballads and raucous uptempo songs that cut through today's radio clutter like a fillet knife through a catfish. It's a style they haven't backed away from; if anything, they've cranked it up a notch with "Carrying On." Many in Nashville see Montgomery Gentry as the beacon that can bring more male listeners back to the genre, a role the duo embraces rather reluctantly.

"We never think about whether we're playing our songs for men or women," says Montgomery. "We're not against playing anything at all, as long as we can relate to it."

Montgomery says he's well aware that the duo's music is far more hard-edged than the bulk of what's on the radio today. "It ain't for everybody, and we know that," he says.

Gentry adds that, while it wasn't easy to find all the right songs, they feel as if they've put together a very strong album in "Carrying On." "I would put our second album up with any second album coming out this year," says Gentry. "Eddie and I just wanted to make sure we had an album that we could listen to from front to back and like it all."

"Carrying On" is unapologetic country rock for the most part, with even the ballads sporting an edginess and macho perspective rarely heard from Nashville songwriters. "Without judging anybody, writers tend to write stuff they think radio will play," says Gentry. "We've had a lot of writers tell us they're thankful to write songs with this type of edginess, and we give them the opportunity to write for themselves. We're just one more piece of the puzzle for country music."

The debut single, "She Couldn't Change Me," is a muscular mid-tempo cut, propelled by an insinuating guitar line and Montgomery's down-home vocals. It is currently at No. 28 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart. In a typical Montgomery Gentry stance, the man in the lyric maintains his backwoods integrity, while the female character eventually comes around to his point of view.

The songs on "Carrying On," including the Hank Williams Jr.-influenced "The Fine Line," the driving "My Father's Son," and the smoldering "A Cold One Comin' On" benefit from an authoritative and confident Montgomery Gentry vocal posture.

"A Cold One Comin' On," penned by Mike Geiger, Woody Mullis, and Michael Huffman, is "cleverly written as far as telling about the coldness of an empty house and the end of a relationship," says Gentry. "And every one of us at the end of a breakup wants to drown our sorrows in a cold beer."

Adds Montgomery, "When you've lived through these songs, you have to feel confident when you sing them and hope it don't happen to you again. And you've got to have them drinking songs, especially if you're playing the honky-tonks."

Even in the album's softer moments, Montgomery Gentry never forsake their scruffier tendencies, particularly on such ballads as the redemptive "Hell Bent on Saving Me" and the fuzztone guitar-inflected "Too Hard to Handle... Too Free to Hold."

The title cut is a raucous Southern boogie party tune full of stubborn pride and touting the pleasures of playing loud. "That's just who we are," says Montgomery. "Sometimes we do play our music loud. A lot of folks want us to turn the volume down, and it ain't gonna happen. The Haggards, Skynyrds, Hank Jr.'s, and Allman Brothers taught us, and we just want to carry it on."

A Ford F-150 pickup truck and Harley-Davidson motorcycle giveaway promotion tied in with CMT, Country Weekly magazine, and the label is geared to attract major attention to the release, as are retail and Web marketing initiatives. A current headlining tour sponsored by Jim Beam and a coveted slot on the upcoming Brooks & Dunn Neon Circus & Wild West Show shed tour will add fuel to the fire.

The duo is looking forward to the B&D tour, which also features Toby Keith and Keith Urban. "Last man standing wins," says Montgomery, with a laugh. "Jim Beam is our sponsor, and we have the only honky-tonk on wheels, open 24-7 and locked, cocked, and ready to rock."