It’s always interesting to watch an artist or band on the back nine of their career. Some continue to make the same music they’ve always made, while others try to chase trends to hang onto their popular status and remain in the mainstream conscious. It can be hard for an act to accept that the glory days of their career are done and its time for the next phase of their career. Longtime country music duo Montgomery Gentry is certainly in the latter half of their career, as their last big hit came four years when “Where I Come From” reached #8 on the Billboard Hot Country songs chart. The only reason it really went that high on the chart too was because Dallas Davidson helped write it and his songs were the toast of Music Row at the time. So really their last big hit was in 2009, which was “One in Every Crowd.” When it comes to the recent music released by Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry, they’ve straddled between pandering to current trends and making music that made people fans of them. On their newest album Folks Like Us, its unfortunately more of the former than the latter.
The album begins with “We Were Here,” a song that reflects back on past times and memories. It has decent productions and vocals from the duo and it kind of reminds me of their old sound. This song could have been better and it could have been worse. Montgomery Gentry go to the bro country well on “Headlights.” It’s your typical summer, bro anthem that we’ve heard from so many artists that I can’t even get that angry about anymore. This is probably because it’s not even the worst thing in country music right now. The production on this song is completely forgettable. Seeing an older act like Montgomery Gentry do these songs is just sad and embarrassing.
“In a Small Town” is exactly what it says it is: a song about a small town. I’m so freaking tired of these damn songs. I think I felt nauseous as I listened to this song because the small town theme is just so overdone. This brought nothing new to the table in terms of the theme at hand. But wait it gets worse! The next song, “Back on a Dirt Road,” is even more terrible. More ridiculous bro tropes, including a reference at the beginning of the song to a “countrified club mix.” What the hell is that? This sounds like a song Jason Aldean would’ve done four years ago. This is one of the worst songs I’ve heard this year. The next song, “Two Old Friends,” is better, but that’s not saying much. It’s about two old friends reuniting with each other. Not a bad theme, but what hurts this song is the production and lyrics. The instrumentation is like a mash-up of pop country and Sam Hunt’s metro sound. It’s kind of dizzying. The lyrics are lukewarm and don’t evoke much emotion at all, which is needed in a nostalgic-driven song like this one.
The album’s title track is a giant-shout out to the everyday people across America. The usual themes of loving Jesus, living in small towns and wearing blue jeans are mentioned throughout the song. Can the songwriting get anymore average and safe than this? What happened to songs like “What Do Ya Think About That”? That was the Montgomery Gentry I enjoyed. Luckily, we get a taste of the duo I enjoyed at one point on “Pain.” It’s a heartbreak song where the man can’t shake the pain of losing his love. This is the type of song that fits in Montgomery Gentry’s wheelhouse perfectly. It tells a simple heartbreak story and the instrumentation doesn’t try to do too much. This easily makes it the best song on the album. Of course this brief quality in the album is broken up by the ridiculous “Hillbilly Hippies.” The song title was an obvious warning that his track would be at best an annoying checklist song. That’s pretty much what it is and includes a weird part in the bridge with some female vocals. This kind of reminds me of a song Big & Rich would do.
“Better for it” is one of the three good songs on this album. It’s about moving on in life and leaving bad memories in the rear view mirror. The man in the song has found the true love of his life now and he’s better for it. Not only does the song have an intriguing theme, but also there’s a steel guitar and an organ in the background. Why couldn’t the whole album be more like this song? The final song to close Folks Like Us out is “That’s Just Living.” It’s about taking the mistakes and scars you incur throughout life in stride and just chalking it up to living. The message of the song is accepting these bumps in life as part of the ride. This song can grow on you after a few listens, as it has a theme everyone can identify with. The vocals are good on this song too. This album closes out pretty song, as three of the final four songs are the best on it.
For the most part, Folks Like Us is a disappointing and forgettable album from Montgomery Gentry. The first half of the album is so bad that I think many listeners would stop listening at the halfway mark and give up on the album. Of course they would miss the second half of the album, which is actually listenable and features some good songs. This is poor track placement on Montgomery Gentry’s fault, although they’re hardly alone in mainstream country when it comes to this aspect. Even Miranda Lambert put her worst songs towards the front of the album on her 2014 release Platinum. If I wasn’t reviewing this album and listening to it as a fan with casual interest, I would have never listened past “Back on a Dirt Road.” By the way if that song gets released as a single, it will be on the year-end list for Country Perspective’s 2015 Worst Country Songs. It’s atrocious and blatantly panders to current trends. So in terms of recommending the album, I wouldn’t recommend it. But if you’re a fan of Montgomery Gentry or some of their music, I would recommend listening to “Pain,” “Better for it” and “That’s Just Living.” The rest I would recommend skipping. The bad really outweighs and bogs down Folks Like Us.