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Montgomery Gentry trades in the party hats to tackle tragedy

Eddie Montgomery slumps over a pool table in the dimly lit room, as if carrying the weight of the world on his broad shoulders. He idly rolls the white cue ball from one side rail to another, while his Montgomery Gentry partner, Troy Gentry, strums some mournful chords on a guitar.

Suddenly, a loud cry pierces the scene. "Cut!" It's the voice of Guy Guillet, who is directing the duo's new video, "Cold One Comin' On." The action stops - and Troy and Eddie exhale relieved sighs in tandem.

"Whoo, I need a break!" laughs Eddie, his trademark black coat sopping wet from his perspiration in the stifling summer heat. "I'm not used to all this sad stuff."

In this case, they're definitely acting against type. Montgomery Gentry, after all, has forged a well-earned reputation as country's rowdiest twosome, both on- and offstage. But they agree that party hats are not the appropriate headgear today.

"We are dealing with a very serious subject here - the death of a loved one," explains Troy between takes. "This is a little different for us, although we have never shied away from talking about real-life issues."

Adds Eddie, "Our songs aren't always about partying. I mean, 'Daddy Won't Sell The Farm' was pretty serious. We've always said that we would never do songs that don't mean anything to us."

"Cold One Comin' On" took on an especially personal meaning as the duo prepared to film the video. Eddie and Troy reworked the original storyline after hearing of a friend's painful ordeal.

"We had a buddy back home in Lexington, Ky., whose wife passed away from cancer," recalls Eddie softly. "They had been married for many years, and she had been his right hand all that time. It was really tough on him."

Troy continues, "The song itself is not about death, but more about a relationship breakup. That's what the video was going to be about until Eddie came back with this story about our friend. It just hit me because I have had family members who were treated for cancer, and it's a traumatic experience.

"So we tweaked the script that Guy had given us and put a whole new twist on the song."

"Cold One Comin' On" is coming on the heels of their Top 5 hit, "She Couldn't Change Me," and expectations are sky-high. "This is from our new Carrying On album," says Eddie, "and our goal is to have as many hits from this one as we did with our first album."

Tattoos & Scars established Montgomery Gentry's slam-bang, Southern-rock style with songs like "Hillbilly Shoes" and "All Night Long." The CD sold more than half a million copies and catapulted them to a 2000 CMA Vocal Duo award.

And now, "Cold One Comin' On" carries on the tradition with a couple of classic themes: getting your heart broken and drinking to repair the damage. In this feel-good era of country music, such topics are nearly taboo.

But Troy and Eddie quickly defend the song. "Love is great," exclaims the recently married Troy, "but it doesn't happen every day. Even in a great relationship, there are going to be ups and downs. Fairy tales are wonderful every now and then, but I think people can handle a dose of reality, too."

"We want to address real-life things," insists Eddie. "And, you know, sometimes there's a party at the end of the story and sometimes there's a heartache - or even a headache!"

That draws a hearty laugh from Troy. "Our heads feel pretty good today," he says with a bad-boy smile. "It's still a little intimidating for us to do videos, though it's getting easier. You have to focus on one thing, whether it's the camera or a particular person. It's not like being on a stage where you perform for everybody."

Troy and Eddie have just come off the biggest tour of the year, the Neon Circus & Wild West Show starring Brooks & Dunn. They joined Toby Keith and keith urban on the massive traveling show, and brought home the experience of a lifetime.

"That tour expanded our audience a lot," says Troy, smiling. "Every show was just jam-packed!"

And after every show was a rocking, all-night jam session. "That was the fun part for us," raves Troy. "Instead of everybody going their separate ways, we would all get together and do a guitar pull on somebody's bus - usually ours. A couple times, we all went to a local club and just listened to the band. That's how it's supposed to be!" he adds, striking his fist on a table for dramatic impact.

"And don't forget the Neon Pond," chimes in Eddie with a laugh.

The Neon Pond?

Troy explains.

"During one gig in Florida," he begins, "we thought we were closer to the beach than we really were. I was disappointed, because I wanted to go swimming."

Eddie picks up the story: "So I took Troy to a K-Mart and we ended up buying this big blow-up pool and four or five lounge chairs. We brought it backstage, filled the pool up with water and everybody jumped in and cooled off."

A dip in the Neon Pond would be a welcome refresher inside this hot and humid Nashville club. But the director's signal - "Five minutes!" - squashes any thought of pools and lounge chairs. That "cold one" will have to wait.

"Back to work," says Troy, grabbing his guitar. "Got some serious business to take care of."