Gary Allan has long been one of country's most reliably velvet-voiced beautiful losers. But on his ninth album, the 45-year-old singer lets the crazy out - howling psychobilly on "Bones," interrupting a recovery-meeting church organ to blame mental ghosts on "It Ain't the Whiskey." On "Sand in My Soul," he vegetates in room 108 of a beachside hotel, letting his hair grow to his waist while the sound of college girls shooting tequila in the parking lot only makes him more antisocial. Elsewhere, he's a ladies' man refusing to settle down (except when he does), and his high-register hiccups convince you he's having more fun than a spring-breaker half his age.
We’ve been raving about Gary Allan on this website quite a lot over the last 12 years. Why? Because he’s the best singer in country music, at least among the guys, and because he has been publicly working through the tragic death of his wife a few years ago, and because he has a sharp edge to him that a lot of other acts just don’t have. (I hate to sound all trad like that; there are Taylor and Carrie and Tim and Shania and Brad albums all over my house.
It's hard to call Gary Allan anything other than a journeyman, a singer raised in hard country who has always found his road a little bit hard to travel. Hits have come, but toward the back end of the 2000s, roughly ten years after he had his commercial breakthrough; the hits started to dwindle and he responded by getting a little bit leaner and rocking a little bit harder. All those moves pay off on Set You Free, his ninth album and one where all of his past is present in his assured professionalism.
Gary Allan has made his fans wait for what has seemed to be the longest three years ever for new music, but it was most definitely worth it with the release of his ninth studio album, Set You Free – his follow up to 2010’s Get Off On The Pain. The country singer has been burning up the country radio airwaves since last fall with the album’s lead single, “Every Story (Runs Out Of Rain),” which is a refreshing subject matter from Allan, who enters into a more positive light than he has been in over the past several years with his music. Echoing the positive message on the album are tracks such as “Good As New,” which talks of a promising future and how meeting that special someone can quickly make you “good as new,” as well as the uplifting “No Worries,” where he sings about not having a single care in the world “as long as I’ve got you.
Gary Allan used to straddle a line between mainstream country and an edgy traditionalist alternative. But as his last few records have steadily incorporated rock and pop iterations into his twang, he’s been edging over that line. The result has been less of his West Coast neo-trad sound (represented here by the aching “It Ain’t the Whiskey” and the country-rock murmur of “Sand in My Soul”).