Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.
Having successfully carved a niche as purveyors of hard-charging country rock, working-class party songs, and male-perspective ballads, Columbia duo Montgomery Gentry has set out to broaden its musical horizons while staying true to the MG vibe on its third album, "My Town."
Due Aug. 27, the new release is the duo's first with producer Blake Chancey, who gave the pair musical freedom while offering direction and studio savvy. The two are happy with the final result. "We worked our asses off on this record, finding songs, bringing in the musicians," Eddie Montgomery says. "Every show we play, we want the next night to be better, and the same goes for our albums."
Troy Gentry says the new record represents a natural progression. "The only way to stay fresh in this business is to keep trying to get better. We've gone from a honky-tonk band to a professional touring act, and, like anything else, the more you do something the better you get at it," he observes. "Musically, this is a little more of a diverse record, but we tried to stay true to what me and Eddie have always been about: playing for the working-class, nine-to-five, 50-hour-a-week people."
More ambitious sonically than its predecessors -- platinum-certified "Tattoos & Scars" (1999) and gold "Carrying On" (2001) -- "My Town" boasts effective vocal mixes and stellar musicianship. Montgomery recalls, "Blake said, 'Find the musicians y'all want to play on this, and we'll make a record.'"
For studio musicians, they stepped outside the traditional Nashville sessions A-team, bringing in such stalwarts as guitarists David Grissom and Pat Buchanan, drummer Greg Moore, and keyboardists Chuck Leavell and Johnny Neel.
"The afternoon and evening before we went into the studio, we rented a building and rehearsed the songs onstage like we were performing them live," Gentry adds. "This gave the session players a chance to bring their own energy to their parts."
Material ranges from the crisp midtempo, Americana-styled title cut (also the debut single) and the bluesy "Why Do I Feel Like Running" to powerhouse rockers like the funky "Bad for Good," working-class rave-up "Hell Yeah," and set-closing Southern rocker "Good, Clean Fun." Gentry describes the Roy Orbison-esque midtempo "Lie Before You Leave" as "our little venture away from our mainstream working-man's theme to do something sexy for the girls."
Similarly, the downward spiral "Free Fall" is light years removed from party anthems. "Much as we like to have a good time," Montgomery says, "there are people out there having heartaches and pain, and we gotta sing about them, too."
Montgomery Gentry's presence on such high-profile shed tours as Brooks & Dunn's Neon Circus & Wild West Show last year and Kenny Chesney's No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems trek this year has helped broaden its exposure. "We couldn't have picked a better tour to be on," Gentry says of the Chesney tour. "Last year with Brooks & Dunn we had a lot of the same crowd, but this time with Kenny we definitely hit a new group of fans, and I can't thank them enough for gettin' into Montgomery Gentry's music."
The duo will follow up the Chesney tour with a run of fair and festival dates, as well as some headlining club gigs. "There's honky-tonks all over this country, with real people that work for a living, and me and T-Roy will keep playing for 'em," Montgomery says. "Our music ain't for everybody, but we don't want it to be for everybody."
Excerpted from the Aug. 10, 2002, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com members section.
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