As you may know, Troy Gentry, of Montgomery Gentry died last week. I want to take some time to talk about what I think of him and their music.
Many of you may not know, because I’ve never really had a reason to mention it on this blog, but I grew up on country music, from the late 80’s until I started to follow the music of my peers in the late 90’s, it was pretty much just country music for me. A lot of people now lament what country has become, since the days of Hank Williams Sr., but if I’m being honest, it has shifted a lot just in the 25 years that I’ve been following it. It is still for a lot of country musicians a story-telling medium, but there has been a lot of pop-filler thrown in too. Many more traditional country musicians have even transitioned in the interest of selling records.
One of the things, in addition to storytelling that is seems to be largely missing from Country Music is lack of pandering. There is an attitude that I think of when I think of real country, and that attitude is just one of being outspoken, and you can’t do that when you’re pandering. Now don’t get me wrong, I think there are some outspoken voices in Country, but even that tends to be inline with where their fans stand.
I guess, I need to not beat around the bush, one of my least favorite things that I have witnessed in Country Music over the last 10 or so years, is a trend to ‘act’ as if they’re pushing the envelope, or having that outspoken edge, when they really aren’t. Most of this comes in the language they use. I used to really like Tim McGraw, and I think he’s been mostly fine, but he has this stupid song called “Truck Yeah,” which is the epitome of what I hate (not only in Country, but in movies and TV and music in general). It’s not the idea of censorship altogether, it’s the idea that “I want people to think I’m saying ‘Fuck Yeah,’ but I don’t want any of the responsibility or downside of saying ‘Fuck Yeah.’ In addition to that eating their cake and wanting it too mentality, it also sounds fucking lame. Not trucking lame, it’s fucking lame.
There’s a lot of that shit happening in Country, and it drives me crazy, but Montgomery Gentry, are one of the acts that I have great respect for, because I don’t think they played that game.
A lot of their music told stories, which for me is a serious staple of the genre, a lot of their songs seemed to have very strong perspectives, and they didn’t seem afraid or pull punches. They released a version of a song (a lot of Country is performed by musicians who aren’t the writers themselves, so this to me isn’t really problematic) called “Titty’s Beer” in which they told the story of their uncle Titus and how he had an idea for a beer brand, and the song proceeds to make all kinds of different breast jokes, with the song ending on “when you work real hard, and your day’s gone shitty, what could be better than a big ol’ mouthful of titty’s.”
Now the song is written by Colt Ford, who also did a version of the song, but the reason why I think that Montgomery Gentry deserves some credit, is that they performed it, and they didn’t try to clean it up and hope to ride the edge. They were a big act, and they released a whole song about “whether you’re from the country or a big ol’ city, one thing’s for sure everybody loves titty’s.”
I cannot imagine any other big country acts performing a song like this. Don’t get me wrong, I know that Kid Rock would totally sing lyrics like this, but he’s a crossover act, and it’s a lot different for crossover acts. It’s kind of like how if a married minister converts to Catholicism, they can become a priest regardless of their marriage. It’s a weird fucking loophole.
Every exception that I can come up with in my head, has some weird qualifier, Rehab’s “Bartender Song,” is really his first country hit, Zac Brown Band’s “Toes” has the lamest radio edit in which they change “got my toes in the water, ass in the sand” to got my toes in the water, toes in the sand.”
Really, when it comes to established Country acts, people with an audience to lose, going out and taking a risk, Montgomery Gentry really did that with “Titty’s Beer,” and I think that is going to be indicative of their legacy, they were a ballsy country act during the rise of the lame pandering country acts.
I don’t know much about Troy Gentry, but I don’t think that it’s too much to say that Country Music suffered a big loss last week, and regardless of that, it’s sad when anyone dies, and I don’t want this post to come off as making light of it.