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From the Country Standard Time Archives

Gary Allan, Chris LeDoux are right where they should be

Queen Mary Events Park, Long Beach, Cal., April 23, 2004

By Dan MacIntosh

LONG BEACH, CA - It may not have been the beautiful wide open spaces of Chris LeDoux's Wyoming home state, but this park concert, near The Queen Mary, certainly offered a uniquely beatific setting, nevertheless. With its cool breeze, and the gentle waves that beat against the shoreline lining one side of this natural auditorium, a half-moon approvingly smiled down upon this picture perfect evening for a little country music.

Nothing exemplified LeDoux's persona better than his singing of Springsteen's "Tougher Than The Rest." Not only is he one of country music's few real cowboys, but LeDoux's husky singing voice is also a whole lot gruffer than most. His concerts are mostly about having a good time, especially with comical songs like "What'cha Gonna Do With a Cowboy?," but he can also be tough-but-tender, especially when he quieted things down with "Look At You Girl."

With a LeDoux concert, there are rarely any true surprises. Still, it was a jolt of good fun when his band pulled out an accordion for the Cajun-spiced "Pass My Hat" from his latest "Horsepower" album. He kidded in his introduction that people assume he has Cajun in him - especially with a last name like LeDoux. He doesn't. But at least for this one song, he sure faked it well.

It's becoming an regular tradition to hear Gary Allan apologize to his mother whenever he plays hometown shows in the LA area. "I could make a whole album called, 'Songs My Mom Hates,'" he quipped before launching into Little Feat's "Willin'," which is a drug-running, truck driving song. (It's definitely not on mom's jukebox at home).

And while not all of Allan's material is mother-approved, his repertoire is without question country-music-fan-beloved. Although he only had an hour window of opportunity, Allan still played plenty of material from his fine recent "See If I Care" release. These included the song-name-dropping "Songs About Rain," the gentle "Tough Little Boys" and the hell raising "Drinkin' Dark Whiskey." He also found space for relatively recent hits like "Smoke Rings In The Dark" and "Right Where I Need To Be."

And as long as he continues to record winning material - even when it sometimes rubs old ma the wrong way - Gary Allan is exactly where he needs to be.

Similarly, on a night like this with Chris LeDoux and Gary Allan on stage, who would have wanted to be anywhere else?