Gary Allan: Set You Free

Released: Jan 22, 2013

I’ve been a Gary Allan fan since I heard his track “Songs About Rain” off of the See If I Care album back in 2003. I had gone through a Nashville country stage in my jr. high years and Texas country during college. At the time that I came across Allan, I had pretty much limited my country music listening to Pat Green and The Mavericks. “Songs About Rain” struck a chord and when I finally popped in the album, I was pleased to find that it didn’t sound like every other country record out there.

Hailing from Southern California, Allan is clearly not the typical country artist. He brings back the Bakersfield sound of the late-50s – rockin’ roadhouse country – which influenced artists as far and wide as Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and even The Beatles. Add to this Allan’s life experience (his wife committed suicide while he was on tour promoting See If I Care) and you’ve got a country artist who can convey pain and loss unlike anyone else out there. [Bias: Now, normally I don’t care much for artists who don’t write their own material – and over the years GA has taken on more writing and producing duties – but the songs he chooses are solid and he makes them his own in a thoroughly believable manner, so I let him slide.]

His latest album opens with the Gary Allan Trifecta: A twangy Bakersfield rocker, “Tough Goodbye”; a silver-lining heart-tugger, “Every Storm”; and an angry ass-kicker “Bones”. “Every Storm”, the lead single, is taken up a notch by the addition of a female background vocal not often found in Allan’s work. While “Bones” has a great sense of immediacy and paints a really clear picture, it lacks the heart of “Just Got Back from Hell” (a song with a very similar sound) off his Tough All Over record.

Gary Allan albums usually follow a pattern: 2-3 really great tracks, 2-3 really bad tracks 4-6 mediocre tracks. This album is no different. I did read an article that talked about how the entire album tells a complete story and I picked up on bits and pieces of it as I listened through several times, but it didn’t “jump off the page” to me. While I hate the idea of stripping tracks out of their album context to make a Greatest Hits record, GA is one of those artists that I’m just never going to pop in his album and listen all the way through. I’m going to pick and choose my favorite songs and enjoy the heck out of those 2-3 each album. That said, I’m going to continue to support him because what he’s doing is so different than everything else out there, and he makes me feel it.

“It Ain’t the Whiskey” is probably my favorite track on the album. If it weren’t for the drunken fools cheering every time he says “whiskey”, this would be an awesome performance. I’m afraid that for the audience, whiskey is the problem.