Wild and studied.
Crazed and responsible.
Sinner and saint.
Bill Gentry is a lot of things that don’t seem, at first glance, to fit together. A businessman. A club owner. A preacher’s kid. A former politician. And an artist who will not be denied.
If those descriptions sound like an odd assortment of current and past lives – well, they are. But they’re also accurate fragments of Gentry, a complicated, driven soul whose personal contrasts are nicely summed up in Baptized In Temptation. The 10-track debut album captures both the rowdy party boy and the thoughtful mate, the country stylist and the blues-rocker.
Produced by Grammy-winner Chad Carlson (Taylor Swift, Trisha Yearwood, Chris Isaak, Sugarland, Cold Mountain soundtrack, Walk the Line soundtrack, etc), the project represents the first studio music that successfully captures the sonic thump of Gentry’s pulsing, high-energy country shows. Those concerts have already seen him play to more than 1 million ticket holders and become something of a Georgia mini-legend, a romp-‘em, stomp-‘em, take-no-prisoners performer who got that way through relentless hard work and study of his concert craft.
“I’m not some getting-drunk kind of party animal,” Gentry insists.
But he might appear that way to many of the fans who’ve locked into his let-it-loose stage persona, just one piece of the puzzle represented in his album. “Between Muscle Shoals And Macon,” the collection’s opening number, pays homage to many of the diverse sounds that form the backbone to Gentry’s musical character: mainstream country, Aretha Franklin-brand gospel, Otis Redding-style soul.
“Hell And Half Of Georgia” builds a dedicated pursuit of romance around the music of the Allman Brothers Band; “Why Can’t You Forgive Me” draws on Gentry’s ever-present humor to form a personal plea from public foibles of Bill Clinton, George Jones, Pee Wee Herman and the Dixie Chicks; and “The Letter” -- the album’s first single -- demonstrates the depth of thought and self-examination that have made Gentry a success at nearly every pursuit he’s attempted in a highly ambitious life.
The album as a whole captures the energy of a Bill Gentry concert, which inevitably finds the audience pumping fists and singing along in loud voices. It’s a reminder that all those different parts of his personality -- the saint and sinner, the artist and businessman -- make him extremely connected to the lives of the fans he’s trying to reach. That connection, and the way it’s achieved, is everything.
“It’s not about where you play, who you open for, or how much you get paid to do it,” Gentry surmises. “It’s all about the music.”
Bill Gentry - "This Letter":
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