September will mark two years since Troy Gentry, one half of the chart-topping duo Montgomery Gentry, lost his life in a helicopter crash, but his music and memory live on through Outskirts, a seven-song EP he recorded with duet partner Eddie Montgomery shortly before his death.
“It was the last thing that me and T-Roy got to do in the studio,” Montgomery tells Sounds Like Nashville of recording this set. “It’s the last thing that he got to do and I think he’d want it out there.”
Produced by Noah Gordon and Shannon Houchins, the EP includes Montgomery’s poignant lead vocal on Merle Haggard’s “What Am I Going To Do With The Rest Of My Life” and Gentry’s powerful take on the Darrell Scott classic “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive.”
“T-Roy was a big, big Patty Loveless fan and she did ‘Never Leave Harlan Alive’ and plus he was a big Darrell Scott fan, so he really wanted to do that song,” Montgomery says. “He also wanted to do ‘River Take Me,’ which is another song written by Darrell Scott.”
Montgomery says both he and Gentry were fans of the title track, “Outskirts,” written by Dallas Davidson, Rodney Clawson and Ashley Gorley. “That’s pretty much who we are! That’s Montgomery Gentry right there,” he says of the high-octane ode to hard working, fun loving country life. “Ashley Gorley is a co-writer on that and he’s from my hometown. His daddy still lives up there. When I heard the song and I found out Ashley was a writer on it, I thought, ‘Man, that’s kind of where we live at home. That’s where and how we grew up!’ I love that! It’s a great song and it rocks in your face.”
Among the EP’s highlights is “King of the World,” which features Steve Vai on guitar. “I don’t know why I love that song so much, but I do,” Montgomery says with a grin.
When they started talking about guitarists who could play on the track, Vai immediately came to mind, and Montgomery was thrilled that he agreed. “Steve Vai is a guitar God,” he says. “You can’t go wrong with having a guitar God on there. When he came in and laid it down, I thought it was perfect.”
The EP also includes the blue collar, good time anthem “Joe Six-Pack,” penned by Jeremy Stover, Jesse Frasure and Travis Denning and the up tempo romp “Never Been Nothing Else,” which was written by Davidson and Bobby Pinson. “Bobby and Dallas are great buddies of ours. They come with that song and it was a killer,” he says. “Just to listen to it loud, get you a cold beverage and turn it up.”
When asked what he remembers most about those last recording sessions, Montgomery replies, “Just how fun it was. Noah Gordon is an unreal producer. We got in there and he said, ‘Let’s just have some fun with it. You all know who you are. You know what your songs are. Let’s just hear them!’ So it was a lot of fun. T-Roy’s vocals on this stuff just blows me away. I told T-Roy. ‘Man, that’s the best I’ve ever heard you sing dude! You nailed it.’”
Since Gentry’s passing, Montgomery has kept the promise the two friends made to keep their music alive, if something should ever happen to one of them. In February 2018, Average Joe’s Entertainment released Here’s to You, the album the duo had completed prior to Gentry’s death. Montgomery and the duo’s longtime band hit the road to promote the project, just as they will do with Outskirts.
Montgomery says the support of their fans has made it easier to carry on after losing his longtime duet partner. “We were friends and brothers. We’d been through a lot of stuff together. Back in the day, if you saw one of us, you’d see the other. We were always getting each other in trouble and out of trouble,” he says of their friendship.
“All of our friends that come see us, they are hard core,” says Montgomery, noting they’ve always considered their fans, not fans, but friends. “They’ve got our back and always have. I still get calls. Somebody will come up and say, ‘I heard a Montgomery Gentry song and man, we love you, and still miss Troy.’ That happens. There hasn’t been a day gone by where I don’t think about him and miss him, especially when we step out on that stage.”
Montgomery Gentry fans, family and friends gathered in Nashville at Acme Feed & Seed during CMA Fest for the duo’s annual fan club party. During the event, Montgomery presented Gentry’s widow Angie with a $2,500 check to benefit the Troy Gentry Foundation. “Angie and them have a board and decide who gets the money and they put it where it needs to be. The Opry Trust Fund is a part of it and so is T.J. Martell,” he says of the charities that benefit. “Angie will keep that going. It goes to such good causes. That’s totally awesome.”
As for his future, Montgomery has a clear mission. “I’m going to try to keep his legacy alive,” he says of his dear friend.
He also has some other projects he’s considering. “I’d love to do a gospel album and that will probably come one day. My mom has been on me and my brother’s butt about doing a CD together,” he says of his brother John Michael Montgomery. “She’s getting older and she’s like, ‘I’d love to hear you all do a CD,’ so me and John Boy have been talking about that, plus doing a solo project. I’m going to take everything one EP at a time. I don’t reckon I rush as hard as I used to. I used to just push and push and push and now I go, ‘Okay maybe I just need a little bit of it’ because me and T when we were out there, there’s nothing we wouldn’t try. We liked living life and that’s what it was all about.”