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Gary Allan

Used Heart for Sale – 1996 (Decca)

Reviewed by Don Yates

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CDs by Gary Allan

Traditionalism is back in style, and this Southern California honky-tonker is the latest new talent to turn heads at mainstream country radio with a sound firmly rooted in the music of another era. But like the best of '90's neo-traditionalists, Gary Allan isn't content to just evoke the past.

His debut begins with the catchy "Send Back My Heart," flavored with the same kind of retro-'50's cool that distinguishes many of the best songs by The Mavericks and George Ducas (who co-wrote the song). "Of All The Hearts" is a wistful retro ballad given an additional emotional edge by Allan's quavery twang (reminiscent of Mark Chesnutt). Allan also does well with a couple of older covers. His interpretation of the David Houston hit "Livin' In A House Full Of Love" conveys a wild giddiness missing from most of the mechanical-sounding uptempo novelty hits of today, and he delivers a rock-solid version of Faron Young's bar-room classic "Wine Me Up."

Other highlights include a confident cover of Jim Lauderdale's bluesy "Wake Up Screaming" and the charming title song (co-written by Allan).

Some other songs aren't as distinctive, and all could use more subtle drumming. But on the whole, Allan's debut succeeds in balancing the modern and the traditional.