Divorce…cancer…that’s a lot to deal with since November 2010. Yet Eddie Montgomery, half of the hard country duo Montgomery Gentry, could tell you a few things about having to face those new realities over the past year. His perseverance (the cancer is now in remission) seems to have translated into a renewed focus on music as Rebels On The Run, the seventh studio album from Eddie and partner Troy Gentry, gets back to the basics and what matters most on their best collection since 2004’s You Do Your Thing.
Produced by Michael Knox (Jason Aldean, Justin Moore), Montgomery Gentry shed some of the sleek production of their most recent efforts in favor of a looser, raw feel on the eleven-song set. The first single “Where I Come From,” a mid-tempo, hometown proclamation, features acoustic/electric guitars and pedal steel as the duo employs their trademark handoff from Eddie singing the verse to Troy taking the chorus. See that door right there, it ain’t never been locked/ and I guarantee it never will, Eddie sings on the verse as the song recalls past hits like “My Town.”
Pride in one’s upbringing and where one is from have always been themes close to Montgomery Gentry. “Damn Right I Am,” the album’s opening track, is an up-tempo country rocker infused with patriotism. Over a thick rhythm section, Troy leans into each line of the chorus, singing, Am I proud that all I see is black and white, wrong or right and there ain’t no changing me?/ Am I proud of where I stand?, before Eddie adds with patient, emphasized timing, You damn right I am.
Eddie again shows his knack for timing on “Damn Baby,” an 80s rock-tinged track in which he eases into the first verse with a wink. After a steady bass drum and building guitars, he slyly sings the title words as the music cuts out from underneath his vocal. The result is like being part of a good natured, inside joke when the storyteller immediately grabs the listener’s attention with a friendly jab.
Troy takes the lead on “Missing You,” a slow, acoustic piece featuring one of the album’s finest melodies. Melancholy twists and turns echoed by a lonely fiddle set the tone as Troy sings, It’s just one of those hard days/ Nothin’ in the cards days/ Walkin’ in the dark days/ You gotta push your way through. On “Empty,” one the strongest songs on the album, Eddie’s voice is engaging, intimate and personal when he sings with heartbreaking honesty, I think I’ll take the long way home/ If I’m in a traffic jam, at least I’m not alone to avoid going home to an empty house. The song’s open acoustic guitars, touch of pedal steel and light organ complement his voice tenderly.
In many ways, Rebels On The Run is a return to form for Eddie and Troy. Songs like “Ain’t No Law Against That” and the title-cut “Rebels On The Run” feature some heavy southern rock riffs and stories about living fast. Alabama front man Randy Owen joins on the humorous, easygoing “I Like Those People,” and “So Called Life” is an amped up, hard country anthem about the road. It’s been a tough year for Montgomery Gentry, but with Rebels On The Run roaring, they’ll see you at the finish line.