DIARY - 8 FEBRUARY 2013 - GARY ALLAN CD REVIEW
ALLAN RESURRECTS STORMS OF LIFE
storm runs outta rain/ just like every dark night turns into day/ every
heartache will fade away/ just like every storm runs outta rain."
- Every Storm Runs Out of Rain - Gary Allan-Matt Warren-Hilary Lindsay.
can be a tough and long task - just ask Californian country singer
It was a single gunshot wound that took the life of Allan's third
wife Angela just after midnight on October 25, 2004.
Texan born Angela pulled the fatal trigger but the ricochet fuelled
morose songs by latter day Nashville widower Gary, now 45 and father
of six children.
Allan exorcised grief in songs about the aftermath of tragedy on
sixth album Tough All Over and seventh disc Living Hard.
Turning trauma into memorable songs from deep within the heart and
psyche has long been a staple of the genre.
this time Allan, who has toured here four times since the nineties,
reaped hay from his heartbreak and turned his life and career around.
after mourning loss of his father and undergoing surgery to remove polyps
on his vocal cords.
The surgery was successful for Allan who has sold more than seven million
"I don't think I realised it at the time, but there were a few years
where I couldn't hit the falsetto notes, like the ones in Smoke Rings
in the Dark," Gary revealed.
"After the surgery it was like I was 18 again."
Allan's aptly titled ninth album Set You Free ploughs a fertile
terrain that shot it to #1 on the Billboard all genre Top 200 chart on
debut with 106,000 sales.
A major catalyst was chart topping hit single Every Storm Runs Out
Of Rain - one of five tunes he wrote.
"We wanted a song about hope," Allan explained.
"I wrote it with Hillary Lindsey and Matt Warren. I remember Matt
Warren brought the hook. He was going through a dry spell, like all writers
do, and he hadn't been writing many songs. He was doing yard work one
day, weed eating, and he hit a rock and it hit the house and then bounced
back and hit him in the forehead. He was pissed, and he called me and
talked to me about it. He had the line, 'Every storm runs out of rain.'"
He brought that into us. And I can remember Hillary doing this gospel
stomp sort of thing. It took off that way for a while then we ended up
writing a different song, which is how we work together. Then as she was
walking out the door, she sat down at the piano and started playing a
riff. She does this once in a while and says, "Everybody just make
something up." I started singing, and I think I sang the first verse
and the melody in the chorus. Then when we came back next time, it was
almost done. We just had to finish it."
It worked - with a vengeance.
I'm not quite ready yet/ to settle down or even let/ someone get a hold
of me/ cause I'm not done being free/ I still have a few roads to travel
down and Lord knows/ I got way too close that time/ that was a tough goodbye."
- Tough Goodbye - Josh Thompson-Tony Martin.
had more control over song content and sequencing on his new album
co-produced with Jay Joyce, Greg Droman, Mark Wright and his band.
"I think every song should be on there for a reason," Allan
"When I got the songs in the order I liked I realised what I
had done was create a story line so that it played like a breakup.
The first song is Tough Goodbye and then I went through all
the emotions of a breakup, all way to the healing song, Good as
New. So the album covers the gamut of a breakup and the first
stages of healing."
So how and why did Allan kick off his liberating album with Tough
just started playing that song live," Allan recalled.
"It's a great song. Josh Thompson and Tony Martin wrote it. That
was a first listen for me. I would be surprised if that's not a single.
It's pretty rare for me. Sometimes if a song hits me really good the first
time, I get sick of it. And by the 10th time I've heard it, it's just
candy, and I don't like it anymore. I usually get out all of my songs
and wear them out myself before I even start deciding what to record.
Some of them weed themselves out. And sometimes you get sick of them as
you record. That happens to me on every record. At the end of the record,
there are songs that other people are jumping up and down about. Then
I say, "I don't think that's even going to make it on the record."
There was one for this album called Sleeping Like a Baby that had everybody
flipping out, and I said, "I don't like it." The whole record,
if you read the song titles when you get it, reads like a breakup. The
whole album has hope and was timely for me, too. I've waited a long time
to get back on the radio."
"What will I say, looking back on this life/ standing there at the
pearly gates/ to a golden street paradise/ feeling humble, no room up
there for pride/ what will I say." - One More Time - Gary Allan-Hilary
on the album is One More Time - a song written in the same session
that yielded Every Storm.
"We wanted to write an introspective song," Allan revealed.
"I had just lost my dad, and we talked about the people we had lost
in our lives. We kept thinking 'what would you say when you get to the
pearly gates?' And that was how the song started. I said I would want
one more time. I'm not ready to be here. It's very therapeutic to write
with Hillary and Matt because we kick our emotions around so much."
One More Time had a profound effect on Allan's mother.
"I had just lost my dad so to me that is a funeral song," Allan
"It's a really introspective song and that's how it hit her. She
called and said, "It just makes me think of your dad and it makes
me cry." I always send her the work tapes then she tells me what
she likes. I'll email her MP3s. I usually do all of the pre-production
stuff in my house, so she gets all of that stuff. You've got to keep it
really simple. I sent her an iMac and the Geek Squad set it all up. Then
a week later, she said, "Ah, I can't play my solitaire on this."
That was pretty much the killer - the solitaire. So we went back to a
Allan was an under age singer in his father's band when his dad vetoed
a record deal offered to him.
"I was offered a deal, and he wouldn't sign it," Allan explained.
"So I quit playing with him. I was young and didn't want to play
in his band anymore. He used to tell me I imitated people, and that's
why he didn't sign it. He'd say, "You need to play for the people
who love you, the people who hate you and the people who couldn't care
less. And that's how you learn to play for yourself. Actually, I didn't
even get what any of that meant. I was just pissed off as a kid. But when
I was 23, I remember a distinct year where I didn't have to think about
how I played a song. I just played it in my band and the song became ours,
whatever it was. I think then it clicked, what he meant. I think I did
imitate people. And he said, "If you get a deal too young, they're
going to mould you." He said, 'I don't want them to mould you.' That
was his deal."
Although Allan was hesitant about accepting paternal advice, history proved
the wisdom of the years.
"In hindsight, all the way, I wouldn't be the person I am if it wasn't
for him," Allan says.
"Yeah, but I'm pretty stubborn. Shoot, there's a committee to tell
you everything at a record label. You definitely have to know who you
are if you want to look like you at the end of the process. We've all
seen people get record contracts, and by the time they're spit out by
the machine, we don't even recognise them."
Not even by headwear.
"The whole hat thing was because they told me to take it off,"
"I hardly ever wore a hat. But they told me to take it off, so I
wore it every day, everywhere I went, for 10 years! There is always a
committee to tell you what to do. But until what I do doesn't work anymore,
let's not try to fix me."
Allan chose his own style on breakthrough album Smoke Rings In The
"Yeah, that was my idea," Allan said.
"That was part of them telling me not to. So I just went more hardcore
into that. Well, they were trying to get me out of the hat, so I came
back with hats and suits. I think it worked, but they were still saying,
"You need to lose the hat." I think it wasn't until they blew
out that part of the label, and those people stopped talking to me, to
where I came in without a hat. Just as long as nobody's going to tell
me I have to do it, I'll do it."
ISAAK AND ZAC BROWN
sand in my soul/ beer in my veins/ letting my hair grow in room 108/ getting
over you, I ain't even gonna try/ cause I'm on a roll/ filling up this
hole/with sand in my soul." - Sand In My Soul - Brad Warren-Brett
explores a more hedonistic happy mood swings on this album - with
a little help from a ukulele.
"I've written so many dark songs and cutting songs that I think
everybody was just hoping that I would have some relief," says
"When I come out and write something positive, everybody's really
excited about it, because I'm writing something positive. But the
truth is, my favourite songs are the dark songs - the songs that make
you cry, the songs that make you think. When I'm writing, I think,
'Nobody gives a shit if I'm happy.' "
Allan is proud of his beach background and doesn't fabricate rural
roots in his songs.
"I don't pay attention to what anybody's doing," Allan confessed.
to never sing about things that I don't know anything about. You'll never
hear me sing about farms and dirt roads. I grew up in a little beach town,
so that's why you don't get those out of me."
A good example is Sand In My Soul - confession of a guy holed up
by himself in some little beach town in order to get over a shattered
It's long on stoicism and short on self-pity.
Allan injects a little Zac Brown flavour into the reggae-pop flavour of
"That's why I bought a ukulele," Allan explains, "because
it's really hard to write a down song on the ukulele."
When Allan came on the scene in mid-'90s - when male country acts were
singing ballads about being tamed by a woman's love - he identified with
fellow Californian Chris Isaak, touring here in March.
"I was way into him," Allan says, "especially through that
whole Smoke Rings in the Dark era."
That's reflected in the Isaak lounge groove in Drop and album closer Good
as New is about being restored.
AND COLD EGGS
last night on my breath/ I stood up and said/ 'It ain't the whiskey/ It
ain't the cigarettes/ It ain't the stuff I smoke/ It's all these things
I can't forget/ So what do you got for this empty hole inside of me?'
- It Ain't The Whiskey - Greg Barnhill-Jim Daddario-Cole Deggs.
half of Set You Free is vintage Allan.
His hit optimism laced hit Every Storm punctuates entrée
Tough Goodbye and the Keith Gattis penned Bones.
Two consecutive songs specifically refer to an inner void deep within
that needs filling.
It Ain't the Whiskey captures the deep suffering Allan is so skilled
The singer questions his character's attendance at a meeting to address
the source of his inner torment.
You Without Me is a devastating song about coming to terms with
an ex who has moved on - a sibling to his older song See if I Care.
The honky tonk flavoured Bones adds anger to the mix.
"Well, I been out here digging a hole," he sings, just as a
harmonica crashes loudly into the mix, and then conspiratorially adds,
"I'm gonna push you in nice and slow."
This is also driven home by Allan's rough edged vocals.
"I never felt like I could sing when I was little, 'cause my voice
was so raspy and everybody else had a pretty voice," says Allan.
"It wasn't until I sang in bars for a few years that I realized that
the texture of it really worked for me. I think I just learned to use
that as time went on. I've always thought I had a fucked-up voice, but
I could convey emotion really well."
Allan has fond memories of writing Pieces with expat Australian
Jedd Hughes touring partner Sarah Buxton and Odie Blackmon.
"He's one of my long time buddies," Gary said of Blackmon.
"When I first came to town, I would live on his couch. So it's always
fun to have success with your friends. The song is about something I believe,
which is how you take something, good or bad, from everyone you meet.
The song talks about all the pieces you take with you, whether you know
someone for an hour or for a long time."
your third glass of Chardonnay/ and he sure seems to know his way/ in
what to do and what to say/ well, it's obvious you've moved on/ I'm still
getting past you being gone/ and he's going home with you tonight."
- You Without Me - Gary Allan-John Lancaster-Rachel Proctor.
admitted it was hard to write You Without Me without giving
away the hook before getting to the chorus, which reveals that the
guy so desperately in love is actually pining for the ex who is now
with another man.
But timing is everything in music - as Allan proves on the success
of this album.
"I've been saying I was waiting for the head of the label to
change," the singer-songwriter explains. "I wasn't having
Gary waited until new label chief, Mike Dungan, took his position
before turning in the finished product.
"I think when you hole up and make an album, you come out going,
'God, I hope somebody likes it," he explained.
they start to respond and check it out, it's really exciting, taking it
to radio stations.
I've done a ton of these things when they invite listeners in, and you
go in and play them the record. I think the most nerve-wracking is when
I had to play my album for Mike Dungan. That was super nerve-wracking.
I brought him into the studio and just played it front to back. He turned
around, said he loved it and left. He's been a great guy to get to know
- a breath of fresh air."
Gary says he hopes to always keep evolving as an artist.
"The challenge is to keep sounding fresh," he admits. "I
try never to focus on the radio, just find great songs, find emotion and
just write the best songs you can. I think when you get fixated on trying
to do something too accurate, it becomes more washed out and less what
you intended it to be. So I think each time the challenge for me is to
try and reinvent a little bit."
This time Allan has smoked the peace pipe with his label.
"We took them all champagne and we had a toast," Allan joked.
"I've gotten to know a lot of them. It's a good thing. I tell you
what, I've never had such a good team."
HERE for a Gary Allan CD in The Diary on August 16, 2010.
for another Gary Allan feature in The Diary on February 26, 2008.
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