Gary Allan - Ruthless
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Ruthless (EMI Nashville, 2021)

Gary Allan

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

Much of Gary Allan's "Ruthless" leans toward the big, booming production so common in contemporary country today. Even so, Allen also has one of the most compelling male voices in country music; one that more often than not cuts right through all the over embellishments. On top of that, this 13-song collection has far more winners than losers.

The biggest and best surprise is one titled "SEX." Yes, it's a song about sex – albeit, without being dirty. Instead, its lyric explores intercourse from multiple situational angles. "It goes good with a record," Allan tells us, "It goes good with the rain." In a few places, Allan quiets the sonic down significantly, with great results. It's so easy to love the acoustic guitar that drives "Unfiltered," which – in our culture's rush to emasculate males – paints a toughened picture of a manly man's man. Another highlight is more of a sonic one. When "Slide" goes into its chorus about sliding, a sweet slide guitar is slid into the mix.

Few country singers vocalize the stress and strains of romance better than Allan. "Till It Felt Like You," for instance, explores the cognitive dissonance of feeling like one is 'moving on,' only to have his new love start to remind him of his ex. Elsewhere, "Trouble Knows Trouble" smartly paints a romance like it's a happy accident waiting to happen.

Unlike many other largely colorless contemporary country vocalists, Allan infuses everything he sings with true character and style. With "Ruthless," he makes each and every note count.

CDs by Gary Allan

Ruthless, 2021 Set You Free, 2013 Get Off on the Pain, 2010 Living Hard, 2007 Greatest Hits, 2007 Tough All Over, 2005

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