After one listen to Here’s To You, it is obvious that Montgomery Gentry was well on the path back to the major country radio charts with this well-curated collection of songs. These tracks find the working class heroes toasting to all the hard working folks who have been with the duo since they arrived nineteen years ago. The ninth studio album of Montgomery Gentry’s career, it saddens me now to know the path that was ahead for the CMA winners. It was a path back to the mainstream, a place they really haven’t been in since 2011’s “Where I Come From” hit the Top 10 of the charts.
“Drive On Home” finds Troy Gentry as the lead vocalist on a song with a slice of life lyric married to guitars and production that recalls alt rock band Vertical Horizon in places. And while that might make for an interesting combination on the surface, really, it fits Montgomery Gentry to a T as they’ve always been a country band which wore its rockin’ roots on their sleeves. “Shotgun Wedding,” the album opener, recalls “Hillbilly Shoes,” the band’s very first single which featured dual lead vocals and an atmospheric story. “Needing A Beer” is a cousin to the band’s past hits like “My Town,” “Hell Yeah” and “Back When I Knew It All,” songs which are for and about the working folks mentioned above. This is another radio ready song that was sure to become a staple at the band’s energetic live shows.
While there’s plenty of rockers on Here’s To You, this is also a record that has mid-tempos and ballads about coming to terms with life’s knack of giving us wisdom as we grow older and the reality to realize we’re the better for gaining that wisdom. Written by Josh Hoge, Jamie Moore and Randy Montana, “Better Me” is a song which exemplifies this the most. It’s the best Troy Gentry has ever sounded on a record and the most convincing too (which says a lot because he always had conviction about the songs he sang). It’s a song of the year kind of performance, and feels like it was going to be a catalyst to a second act for Montgomery Gentry. Now it sadly is just a eulogy as he passed away from a helicopter accident in September of 2017. “Feet Back On The Ground” is rural in theme and reflective in life.
The melodically moody “What’cha Say We Don’t” blends some 80s pop/rock sound to a modern mainstream country sound and melody and it, too, feels like a song which was ready for primetime. “Drink Along Song” and “Get Down South” both feel ready for rural parties while the story song “King Of The World” proves that Montgomery Gentry remained connected to their classic country roots. “That’s The Thing About America” celebrates all the great things that are present in America and grounded in the patriotism that has permeated Eddie and Troy’s music through the years.
Some folks might not know that Here’s To You was recorded prior to Troy Gentry’s passing and want to write off the record as some cash-in opportunity by the label and surviving member Eddie Montgomery but it really isn’t. Here's To You is not just a great record in the band’s steady catalog of recordings but it feels like their most well-rounded and best album of their career.