On his eight studio album, Get Off on the Pain, California honky tonk hero Gary Allan digs deep in the soil of human emotion and comes up with a handful of diamonds. Allan, one of the few authentic artists to come out of Nashville since country music turned into a giant money machine, is as real as they come. Never a trend follower, Allan -- who for the most part has steered clear of cheese-filled songwriting fodder -- keeps getting better with age.
As if the titles of his albums didn’t make it clear, life with Gary Allan is never an easy ride. At various times throughout his both lucrative and artistically rich career, Allan’s sheer lack of optimism has lingered on the verge of nihilism. Not that it’s not warranted, especially considering Allan’s compelling and devastating personal marital narrative and the consequential emotional turmoil the Californian faced in the wake of his wife’s suicide.
The title of country star Gary Allan’s latest album, Get Off on the Pain, lays bare something that has been obvious about the singer for years now. He may not sing about adventures with single-tails, Kubotans, and violet wands, but Allan has built his reputation on delivering emotionally painful, difficult material with a knowing sense of masochism. After all, this is a man who used his 2005 album Tough All Over to chronicle the fallout from his wife’s suicide.
Gary Allan No one peels back scabs like Gary Allan. “I don’t know why I love women that love to do me wrong/I don’t know why my life sounds like a heartbroke country song,” he moans on the title track from his eighth album, concluding, “I ain’t really happy ’til the sky starts driving rain.” There’s plenty of that in this California country star’s songs, delivered in his raspy, shattered voice with a matter-of-fact darkness. “Get Off on the Pain” (MCA Nashville) is the year’s best country album so far, almost as brilliantly anguished as Mr.