Eddie Montgomery

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You might catch Eddie Montgomery taking a quick glance at an empty space beside him when he and The Wild Bunch take the stage to play the expected duet hits as well as tunes from his brand-new and mostly raucous solo debut “Ain’t No Closing Me Down.”

Eddie always feels the presence of Troy Gentry, his honky-tonking partner, who tragically passed in 2017, which could have put a tragic end to the Montgomery Gentry sound. Except Eddie made a promise that the MG sound would go on: Which, at its heart, is what this new album is all about.

Rowdily honed in honky-tonks and at parties in their Kentucky homeland, Montgomery Gentry rocked to stardom over the next 18 years as the duo had 20-plus charted singles, collected CMA, ACM and Grammy nominations and awards with such unsubtle, blue-collar rallying cries as “Hell Yeah,” “My Town” and the irrepressible “Hillbilly Shoes.” Their No. 1s included “If You Ever Stop Loving Me,” “Something to be Proud Of,” “Lucky Man,” “Back When I Knew It All” and “Roll With Me.” Grand Ole Opry members since 2009, MG also belong to the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame, where they join the likes of Bill Monroe, Tom T. Hall, Skeeter Davis, Lionel Hampton and Eddie’s brother, John Michael Montgomery.

Even though he was fulfilling a promise to Troy, Eddie took a year off after the accident to ponder how and if he’d carry on. The COVID pandemic gave him an extra year-and-a-half. With the help of some of Nashville’s best honky-tonk-flavored writers, he has fashioned a solo career that is both a tribute to the past and a rowdy reach into the future. “I wanted to comfort my soul and have the greatest writers help me put it together.”

Much of the soul-salvation can be found in the song, “Alive and Well.”

“It’s pretty much my life,” he says of the song that salutes his best friend as well as two sons who are gone. “One died quite a few years ago. I lost my other son a year before, the same month as Troy. September is not my favorite month.” While it is a farewell, it also is a promise to keep going, the promise he delivers in the rest of the album. “When I wrote that song, it helped my heart. It helped me a little bit, I reckon, to heal the wounds. But the scar is always there.”

The man with the thick, honky-tonk voice and hell-raising reputation, the same fellow who salutes the death of his best friend in this album, admits that things change when a guy ages. “I’m more into staying home and piddling in my garden and stuff.”

Still, after he parks the garden rake and dons that wide-brimmed black hat, straps on a guitar and climbs onstage with The Wild Bunch, “it’s kind of like old times.” Except T Roy is missing. Or is he?  “He’s right there on stage, every time I hit it. He’ll always be there. “I like writing about everyday life: The good, the bad, the ugly and the party on the weekend. We know life has got a bunch of ups and downs. Stuff’s gonna happen, or you can keep your ass up on the porch. ‘‘Me and T Roy, we always lived life. You live life and make sure you do, ’cause it won’t be here tomorrow.”