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They're the real deal, and aiming to stay that way

Eddie Montgomery should be thrilled at the moment. His band, Montgomery Gentry, has a single and an album in the Top 10, plus they're opening Toby Keith's summer tour, which stops Fridayat Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre.

But he's irritable, and not afraid to explain why.

“I hate to get on a political high horse, but I think people ought to be writing and phoning their congressmen and tell them to do something about the gas prices and quit taking money from the oil companies or they'll be out of office next year,” says Montgomery, during a phone interview. “It has gotten ridiculous. Somebody is making money on this. When our forefathers served in Congress, they did it for free. Maybe we ought to go back to that.”

If Montgomery sounds like your average working stiff, that's because he was raised on a Kentucky farm and spent his summers cutting and hanging tobacco. He'd like to believe most of Montgomery Gentry's fans are blue-collar, too, given the success of hits like “Hillbilly Shoes” and “Daddy Won't Sell the Farm.” In fact, most of the hits produced by him and partner Troy Gentry feature stories of stubborn characters who are unrepentantly country and prone to party.

“I think we have not forgotten our roots,” says Montgomery. “It's common for us to go out after a show and hang out with fans. We'll sit and drink iced tea with you or Jim Beam. It's well-known that our tour buses are packed with people after a show. We've also been known to go to honky-tonks. I think fans know when you're real and when you're fake and they know we're real.”

The successful debut of the album “Back When I Knew It All” in the Top 5 shows Montgomery Gentry's formula is working. It is their sixth studio album since 1999's “Tattoos and Scars.” All hit the Top 10 on the Billboard country album charts, five earned gold status for selling a half million copies and three went on to sell more than one million. In addition, the duo has released two popular greatest hits packages, featuring No. 1 songs like “If You Ever Stop Loving Me” and “Something to be Proud Of.”

Montgomery says he's proud of what they've done on the charts, but he's still looking for that one great song that will become a country mainstay. In his mind, the making of any country legend is the ability to have one or more of your songs in constant rotation on honky-tonk jukeboxes. He wants that for Montgomery Gentry.

“Any time you go to a honky-tonk or anywhere with a jukebox, you go over and you'll see a song by Tanya Tucker, Merle Haggard, Charlie Daniels, Jimmy Buffett, Bob Seger, Willie Nelson and Waylon. We want to be in that group. When all is said and done, that's what it's all about,” says Montgomery, noting he's optimistic they've got a good chance.

“This is our 10th year, seventh album and the first single off of it is our fastest-rising single ever,” he says. “That means we're still climbing the mountain and haven't gotten to the peak, and that's good. Because once you get to the top, there's only one way to go and that's down.”

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