Eddie Montgomery told personal stories with friends and family while working on debut solo album Ain't No Closing Me Down. In the process, Montgomery's inner circle carried on the music of his longtime Montgomery Gentry bandmate, the late Troy Gentry.
Such collaborators as Montgomery Gentry's backing band for 20 years, The Wild Bunch, helped Montgomery keep a vow to Gentry.
"[Gentry and I] made a promise, a deal, way back when," Montgomery said in a press release. "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... It's always going to be 'Eddie Montgomery of Montgomery Gentry.'"
The Montgomery surname is synonymous in country music with more than Eddie's shared experiences with Gentry. Eddie and his country star brother John Michael Montgomery grew up in a musical household with their sister Becky (the mother of rising Nashville artist Dillon Carmichael) and their parents, honky-tonk musicians Harold and Snookie Montgomery.
"Whether it was right or wrong, we'd seen a lot of it," said Montgomery of a childhood spent in and out of dive bars. "[John Michael and I] were roadies by the time we were 8 years old."
The third generation of the singing Montgomery family contributed to the album. Walker Montgomery, the son of John Michael, co-wrote what Uncle Eddie calls "the flag song," "Ain't She Beautiful."
'We need a lot more Walker Montgomerys," Montgomery told Wide Open Country. "The way he thinks about our country, man. I'll tell you what, this is the greatest country in the world. We can say, be and dream as big as we want to in this great country. We don't give it up enough for all of our American heroes.
"My brother played the song for me and said that Walker wrote this song," Montgomery continued. "I listened to it and went 'oh my God.' I called Walker and told him and I told my brother, I said, 'Okay, if neither one of y'all are cutting this song, I want it.' Anybody that's ever seen me and T-Roy's show, going back from the night clubs on up to here, we're very patriotic."
Co-writing "My Son," the theme for western film Old Henry, with producer Noah Gordon helped Montgomery cope with the loss of two of his children. A 3-year-old son passed away in a car accident in 1991, and 19-year-old son Hunter died of a drug overdose in 2015.
"A lot of it is going back into my soul," Montgomery said in a press release. "I taught them how to live. Taught them that some of the stuff I chased, I probably shouldn't have. Like my old man said, 'Son, do as I say, don't do as I do.'"
As Montgomery's country music peers constantly prove, the more specific an artist and their co-writers get about personal details, the more the end result tends to appeal to others facing their own personal struggles.
"The greatest award you can ever have to me is when somebody comes up to you and they go, 'You know what, you don't know how much this song helped me get through a situation I was in. I want to thank you for the music'," Montgomery explained. "That's when you go, 'Man, alright, I'm not the only one that's been through this' or 'I can't believe the song moved somebody.'"
Another deeply personal selection, "She Just Loves Me," is the first love song ever co-written by Montgomery. It's for the special someone he calls his "smoking hot wife," Jennifer.
"I never had written one, and I said I'd never write one," Montgomery said. "Of course, I didn't plan on meeting her, either. When I wrote the song, I brought it home because we went ahead and laid a little demo down. When I came home, I said, 'I'm not going to sing it for you. Just listen to the demo, and you can tell me what you think.' Of course, I didn't tell her what it was. When she heard it, I said, 'I wrote it about you.' She got all tore up. I reckon I done okay on that (laughs)."
Montgomery recruited his lone duet partner on the project, Tanya Tucker, to bring her honky-tonk attitude and instantly-recognizable rasp to "Higher."
"I'm going to tell you something right now: I will put her up against any new artist who wants to come in and try to sing," Montgomery added. "She is still so powerful. Her voice is raw and you feel it. When she sings, she will blow the mic and blow the needles off the board."
Several song ideas began as discussions in Montgomery's garage after he transformed it early in the pandemic into a clubhouse of sorts for regulars at the golf course across the street and friends.
"I backed my truck out of the garage, and I've got a pretty good size garage," he explained. "The next thing I know, I hung a TV up in there and ended up getting a commercial refrigerator in there because all the restaurants were closing down. So I bought that and put that in there, and the next thing I know, I've got dart boards and disco balls and tables and I've got all these grills. The next thing I know, my garage turned into a bar. A buddy of mine made a big neon sign that said 'Eddie's Garage.' They're talking about maybe wanting to make it a show. We'll see."
Ain't No Closing Me Down arrived on CD exclusively at Walmart on Oct 29. A digital release via Average Joes Entertainment will follow on Jan. 28, 2022.
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Ain't No Closing Me Down Tracklist
1. "Ain't No Closing Me Down" (Eddie Montgomery, Chris Wallin, Ira Dean)
2. "Alive and Well" (Montgomery, Wallin, Dean)
3. "My Son (Old Henry Theme)" (Montgomery, Noah Gordon)
4. "That's the Kind of Man I Am" (Montgomery, Dean, Kim Tribble)
5. "Higher" (Feat. Tanya Tucker) (Jim "Moose" Brown, David Wade, Shane Grove, Erik Michael Westfall)
6. "Play That Game" (Montgomery, Dean, David Lee Murphy, Justin Weaver)
7. "Kickin' It Up" (Montgomery, Wallin, Dean)
8. "She Just Loves Me" (Montgomery, Wallin, Dean)
9. Sounds Like a Tuesday" (Jeffrey Steele, Wyatt Durrette, Stephen Wilson)
10. "Cry Whiskey" (Montgomery, Wallin, Dean)
11. "Ain't She Beautiful" (Walker Montgomery, Chris Rafetto, Brendan Cooney)
12. "Somewhere South" (Tony Lane)