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Gary Allan - 'Set You Free' Album Review

Gary Allan releases his ninth studio album

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set you free album cover

Gary Allan - 'Set You Free' (2013)

Image courtesy of MCA Nashville Records
Gary Allan has skated on the edge of Nashville acceptability, but challenging country music conventions admittedly doesn't take much. For Allan, it meant recording songs by alt-folkie Todd Snider, and throwing in a bit too much West Coast grit for some delicate tastes.

His new album Set You Free is on the slicker end of the scale.

Every Love Ballad (Runs Out of Metaphors)

Living Hard is Allan's first #1 country album since 2005's Tough All Over. This new record matches its forerunner's crisp sound and enthusiasm for downbeat ballads.

Those impulses find perfect expression in "Every Storm (Runs Out of Rain)," even if it points listeners to the silver lining in life's proverbial storm clouds. The tune became Allan's first #1 country single since 2004's "Nothing On But the Radio."

More mournful is "You Without Me" and "It Ain't the Whiskey," in which a man blames his drinking on bad memories. (I'll have to remember that one.) Liquor is likewise flowing in "Sand in My Soul," as a man checks himself into a Hotel California for heartbroken boozers.

Hungover Hearts

Next up on the energy scale is "Hungover Heart." The fine tune lays down the rules on getting over the end of an affair. Hint: "Hair of the dog" will only compound your problems.

Don't get too high on love
Or addicted to her touch
Don't get hung up on forever
Cause there ain't no such

Thing aren't going too hot on "Good as New" either. At least not on the surface.

I had a broken watch on a broken chain
I had a roof that leaked every time it rained
I had an old guitar that wouldn’t stay in tune

Everything is broken, but this being that type of song, a little love fixes everything.

Since I've met you
Well, I’m good as new

Let There Be Rock

Breaking up the pity party is "No Worries," a Kenny Chesney-style island islandeer. Also amping up the atmosphere is the tough Southern rocker "Bones." The bracing opener "Tough Goodbye" and "Pieces" feel a bit like alt-rocky outtakes from Tim McGraw's Emotional Traffic.

Certainly, Set You Free can use these jolts of energy, but Allan still seems at his best -- and definitely in his comfort zone -- when he's maudlin, morose, and three sheets to the wind. We wouldn't have it any other way.

'Set You Free' Track List

  1. Tough Goodbye
  2. Every Storm (Runs Out of Rain)
  3. Bones
  4. It Ain't the Whiskey
  5. Sand in my Soul
  6. You Without Me
  7. One More Time
  8. Hungover Heart
  9. No Worries
  10. Drop
  11. Pieces
  12. Good As New

Release date: January 22, 2013

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