May 16, 2008 / 11:02 PM / in 10 years

Montgomery Gentry gets "Back" in focus on new album

NASHVILLE (Billboard) - On their 2006 country top 10 single “Some People Change,” Montgomery Gentry sang, “Don’t give up hope, some people change.” That advice could apply to the way the veteran duo is approaching its career these days.

Aiming to shake things up, the duo — which has scored a dozen top 10 singles on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, including three No. 1s — decided to record its new set at Memphis’ Ardent studios, where Led Zeppelin, Stevie Ray Vaughan and B.B. King have recorded.

“When you work in Nashville, towards the end of the day you start thinking about going home for dinner and trying to break off early to go see the family,” Troy Gentry says. “We wanted to go somewhere different to keep everybody in the groove of the record, where everybody can stay focused on what they’re doing.”

The result, “Back When I Knew It All,” is due June 10 on Columbia Nashville.

Montgomery Gentry’s best seller to date is 2002’s “My Town,” with sales of 1.1 million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. “Some People Change,” released in 2006, topped out at 423,000, and Sony BMG Nashville chairman Joe Galante admits that the band and the label “strayed musically from what the base had been. They have an edge to their sound, and I think we got a little too soft.”

Perhaps the biggest double-take moment in the act’s career came when poet/novelist Maya Angelou invited the duo to open her appearance last year at Nashville’s Tennessee Performing Arts Center by performing “Some People Change” with the Fisk Jubilee Singers.

The new set is a different story, Galante says. “It goes back to small-town themes — that edge of partying with them at the same time.”

The pair also changed managers. After working with Nashville-based Hallmark Direction for its entire career, the duo switched to the recently opened Nashville office of Parallel Entertainment, the Los Angeles-based company that handles Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall and Larry the Cable Guy, among others. (Country star Billy Currington and newcomer Jeremy McComb are also Nashville clients.)

“It seemed like we’d gotten to a plateau,” Gentry says. “We were still working hard, still putting out good music, still having hits at radio, but we weren’t getting up over that little berm. We needed someone to give us that little push, that extra notch to get us up to the next level.”

The changes seem to have worked. “Back When I Knew It All” is the band’s fastest-climbing single to date and currently sits at No. 11 on Hot Country Songs.

The set also includes “I Pick My Parties,” which features Toby Keith, with whom the duo will tour this summer. “Hopefully it’ll be a song that we’ll all get together and do out on tour,” Gentry says. “With Eddie and I both getting older, that song just makes so much sense.”

Reuters/Billboard

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