Gary Allan

Gary Allan
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Over the course of five albums, including his 1999 breakthrough Smoke Rings in the Dark, Gary Allan has established himself as a country singer who knows exactly and communicates richly his own mind. He is a songwriter who often has chosen not to write, because of his great ability to sing to life certain songs written by others, and because of his expertise at grouping those selections into albums that expose his own unvarnished emotional truths. He is a native southern Californian who always has believed that vintage choices -- '50s guitar tones; rhythms from honky-tonk clubs where people gather, talk, and dance; lyrics unafraid to deal with whatever appears on the table at the time -- should form the bedrock of country music that remains in touch with modern realities. He is a singer, not particularly flashy yet capable of tapping deep style, who often has said that rock and roll covers the weekends, and country music, with its emphasis on everyday honesty, engages with Monday-through-Thursday. And Allan is a music fan who knows and loves his Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson and heroic others, but who never hesitates, when he feels like it, to dive into music and attitudes outside country classicism. Tough All Over, Allan's overwhelming sixth collection, on MCA Nashville, is true to all aspects of Allan's past work, beliefs, and successes. He remains a staunch believer in risk-taking tunes, evidenced here particularly by the forceful "He Can't Quit Her," which sees love as addiction, and "Nickajack Cave (Johnny Cash's Redemption)," which portrays a dramatic turning point in the late country legend's life after drugs and alcohol had "him strung out on the ropes." But Tough All Over also moves on. Previous Allan albums presented his music as the play of a mainstream Nashville artist making his strong and sweet peace with California country traditions stretching from the rich balladry of Roy Orbison to the ornery truths of Haggard and Owens to the post-punk roots allegiances of the Blasters and X. That play is now gone. In its place is a fully integrated command of California and Nashville country that leaps out as Gary Allan music at its most immediate, satisfying, and mature. Sometime before October of last year, Allan was talking with his friend, songwriter, Jamie O'Hara. "I don't know," Allan says, "we just got into one of those big philosophical discussions about the music industry, and how it sometimes works against you as an artist. Jamie was talking about the things he thought that it took from him. And he said, 'Man, it took some things from you, too. When's the last time you wrote by yourself?' Allan thought for a moment, "Damn, it was before I had a record contract. I think I was 26 and had just gotten my first publishing deal. I was in a room writing with somebody different every day, and I got so disenchanted and burned-out that I quit writing by myself. Anyway, Jamie brought it to my attention, and I felt inspired to start writing again." But last October Allan's path abruptly changed when his wife of three years committed suicide. "Your whole life, all your plans come to a halt," he says, "and you need to start over again. I was definitely in a place that I had never been, by a long shot, when I made this record.” "So I had started writing again, and then when she passed writing songs became a healing process for me. All of my records are personal, but this is by far my most personal record. I have four songs on this one -- 'I Just Got Back from Hell', 'Puttin' My Memories Away', 'No Damn Good', and 'Putting My Misery on Display'. You can definitely see where I was on each of my albums, mentally. But I think this one, yeah, this one got closer to me, more inside of me, than you would normally see. Just because of all that had happened." Allan had completed tracking four songs for what would eventually become Tough All Over; but finishing the album presented a situation unlike any he had faced. "What happened complicated working in a way that I'd never experienced," he says. "There are no love songs, for example. We had a couple -- smashes, actually. But it was like: 'Who am I singing that to, you know?' It just didn't make any sense to have those kinds of songs on my record, not this time." What did make sense to Allan, once he returned to the studio, was to address what had happened in his music. Tough All Over is very much a collection that falls out from the moment, which happens early in the collection's lead title song, when Allan elegantly wails the line "I wish you were still here/And I say it sadly." "I was just in total devastation,” Allan says, “but I couldn't ignore what had happened. To me, that's what country music is: It's all in the center of real life.” There was some talk of putting out one of the many strong tracks from See If I Care, Allan's last album, from 2003, named the year's finest country CD by Blender magazine. But doing that didn't seem right to Allan. "Because all my other records reflected so much where I was at (at that point in time), I felt like it would have been wrong to ignore the situation. I definitely thought that people should know 'Look, this happened and you're going to hear it and feel it in my songs.'" The result was Allan's recording and release of the first single, “Best I Ever Had.” But there was more work to be done. Allan's longtime producer Mark Wright said, "Working on the rest of the album was definitely medicinal for him, you could see that. There would be days when he'd come in and say, 'I just couldn't sleep.' But then Gary got to the point where he was actually smiling when he'd come into the studio, because he realized that there was something he'd get out of his system that day. The process evolved from something he was not looking forward to doing, into something that was helping him to heal." For Allan, Tough All Over has become his favorite record; he describes the final sessions now as "the most expensive therapy I've ever had." He worked, after all, with the same group of musicians -- among them keyboardist Steve Nathan, drummer Chad Cromwell, electric guitarist Brent Rowan, bass player Michael Rhodes, acoustic guitarists Jake Kelly and John Willis, percussionist Eric Darken, fiddle player Hank Singer and steel player Robby Turner -- that he had been friends with and recorded with since his very first studio album. "Recording this album was an emotional experience," Allan says, "because everything we were cutting on that second round dealt directly with what I was feeling. Five songs that were cut during those sessions talked openly and honestly about what I was going through. I wanted to be certain the songs communicated my feelings respectfully.” "It was almost like letting go. Every writing session that I was in was therapeutic because I was dealing with raw emotions and talking about my feelings. I reached inside myself to get some honest life into these songs. When I was in the studio, it was the same kind of thing, listening to the music and being there with my friends was comforting. Music's very emotional to me, anyway." For Gary Allan, no real choice ever existed about the subject of the twelve songs on Tough All Over. "Not addressing what happened to my family would have been wrong,” says Allan. “It’s a part of our lives and part of who I am. I absolutely had to work through what had happened through music.”
Date Venue City State Note
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10/25/2010 - Concert review: Gary Allan bares soul to rapt country fans - Read More
01/27/2010 - GARY ALLAN PARTNERS WITH THE PBR! - Read More
07/22/2009 - Gary Allan stalker gets restraining order - Read More
05/27/2009 - Woman Charged with Stalking Country Music Star  - Read More
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Average Rating : 4.9              Total Reviews: 30

Gary Allan  11/04/2008            
Love anything from Gary Allen!! This cd is awesome!
Gary Allan  03/04/2008            
Dawn Crittenden
Beautiful music,beautiful man inside and out,I own every cd he has made,I always look forward to his next.
Gary Allan  11/13/2007            
And me....I'm kinda vain.
If you like Half of My Mistakes, then listen to Radney Foster's version. Either one is spectacular, but I'd have to say the acoustic version on And Then There's Me is the better version. Much more soul to it.
Gary Allan  11/13/2007            
I love it! Half of my mistakes has been a fav. of mine for a while and Wrecking Ball sounds awesome! I love his voice with Gattis songs.
Gary Allan  10/26/2007            
I love Gary Allen and so far haven't found a record of his that I didn't absolutely love, including this one! Oh and, just a thought, hey Katlin, (who commented below) maybe you should have thought about following Gary's lead and finishing school yourself......"fifthteen"??? What's up with that?
Gary Allan  10/23/2007            
Kim C
I was hoping for more! I love the feel and sound of Gary's 'Smoke Rings in the Dark' album. I understand that an artist needs to grow in his music but this album is hundreds of miles from the sound that made Gary a star. Maybe after a dozen or so trips through "Living Hard" I might find some tidbit of the sound I was hoping for on this album.
Gary Allan  03/12/2007            
Great cd! I would recommend all of his cds and he's even better live. One of the best singers around these days and a top notch guitarist to boot.
Gary Allan  10/06/2006            
Gary has always put his heart and soul into his music and in his latest, TOUGH ALL OVER, he has finally found a method that works. He said himself that he could have he music reflect his life or record some song that has been floating around. No one gives him enough credit, he is very blessed. It has to place in words what he does. Besides anyone who is giving a record deal at fifthteen and turns it down to finish school is alright with me. Gary is just an "alright guy"
Gary Allan  05/21/2006            
alright girl
Lucifer you just showed your ignorance with that comment.This guy puts his heart and soul into every performance...i don't find anything boring about that! His new stuff is amazing! This guy doesn't get any recognition for his talent, but then again he doesn't do it for the fame. Keep on rockin' Gary!
Gary Allan  05/14/2006            
Gary is awesome, I seen him perform in Ruston LA in front of only 3000 and he put on a show as if he were in front of 20,000. Bleu Edmondson opened for him that night and gained a fan out of me.
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