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Gary Allan

Set You Free – 2013 (MCA)

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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CDs by Gary Allan

Gary Allan sets it straight where his musical universe is at when he starts the disc with the words "That was a tough good bye" in Tough Goodbye. You know this is not going to be an easy, joyful ride throughout these dozen songs mainly constricted to heartache and hurting, just as Allan's past would indicate. A look at the song titles - It Ain't the Whiskey, You Without Me, Hungover Heart - makes that abundantly clear.

The number one hit Every Storm (Runs Out of Rain) is a bit more sensitive vocally than Allan tends to be and is wrapped around a catchy, though not overtly radio ready melody. But Allan is not going to stay soft as the very next song Bones (Keith Gattis) would indicate in a song with harp, blazing steely guitars and gritty, raspy vocals.

Allan veers towards reggae on the very fine No Worries and a bit of a reggae/jazzy take on Drop.

Yet, not all is gloom and gloom for Allan, who only wrote four of the songs. By the end, Good As New,(the soft sounding from Pat McLaughlin and Billy Burnette), Allan, in yet another emotionally charged vocal delivery, is already looking ahead as if the healing has started.

Allan is one of those few artists out there with some really good songs that turn into hits. He's enjoyed 4 number ones in 17 years, but it's still hard to say why he isn't even more popular given the quality of his albums since his first one, the very fine "Used Heart for Sale" way back in 1996. Maybe it's the lack of a feel good sensibility about Allan and his songs.

But fortunately Allan seems to have continually followed his own muse. As Allan sings in Pieces which he helped pen, I'm not hiding where I've been/Gonna let the light shin in/What I don't need/Gonna let that...go." Allan is all the better for sticking to his guns. And so are we.