Gary Allan Releases Artistry and Pain in “Set You Free” – Album Review
“I’ve lived like hell, I’ve done it well and I’ve got the scars to prove”
Gary Allan and Universal Music Group release Allan’s much anticipated “Set You Free” album on January 22 to iTunes and retail outlets everywhere. And while Allan doesn’t waver here from his undeniable uniqueness, his rebel rowdiness and his lyrical and vocal wearing his heart on his sleeve, “Set You Free” has an unrivaled catharsis that previous albums, as healing and journey-engaging as they were, didn’t possess.
Coming full circle, personally, musically and medically (Allan also danced with vocal voodoos), “Set You Free” is a testament to having the courage and support to face your demons, honor their place in your existence, learn from them, let them go and emerge … free – or as Gary puts it, Good As New.
To get there, Allan took a bit of a different musical route this time around.
“There’s no better thing than to have all your best friends come over and to talk about the emotions that you’re having,” Allan says. “Songwriting is the best therapy in the world.”
Descending on the talented stock of music city, Gary tapped into a myriad of songwriting talents, including his own, and a mix of top notch producers: Mark Wright (Gretchen Wilson, Lee Ann Womack) on three songs, Jay Joyce (Eric Church, Cage The Elephant, The Wallflowers) tracking five and Gary himself co-producing the final four with engineer Greg Droman (Brooks & Dunn, True Blood theme). Allan also merged his co-writing skills for the first time with three different females. Four of the five songs Gary penned are written with Sarah Buxton, Hillary Lindsey and Rachel Proctor – Lindsey also singing harmonies on Every Storm (Runs Outta Rain). The result, a distillation top breweries would be hard-pressed to yield.
The Healing Journey Begins
A deliciously refreshing musical storybook, “Set You Free” opens up with the confessional yet resolute Tough Goodbye, admitting to the difficulty in letting go, honoring the right to feel the sting and resolving to move on.
Tough Goodbye is an outstanding track in many ways. Musically, it’s infectious. When I hit “play” to check my album had downloaded correctly, the song stopped me dead in my tracks. Five full album listens later I was admitting addiction. Lyrically Tough Goodbye is an acknowledgment of love lost but in a playful and freeing way. The song grabs you by the heartstrings and gratefully entices you to a full serving of twelve steps to finally feeling good.
Every Storm (Runs Out of Rain), the album’s first release, opens with a musical mystique reminiscent of a Dire Straits melody. Instrumentally it reverberates with every fiber of your being. Complete captivation. The melody is uplifting, the story inspiring. It’s the cold rain you needed pounding down on you to help release and refresh your painful emotions. It’s at No. 3 and rising on MediaBase Country Music Charts and VEVO’s playing host to some two million video visitors.
Looking Back and Letting Go
But just as there is in any process of letting go, Allan takes you on a twelve-track musical cleansing before emerging Good As New.
A typical testosterone-pumped rocking release, Bones is a permissive purging of whatever anger might be pent up, assisting you in your healing cleanse. It’s energy packed and I’m sure explosive live. Take this one in. It’ll leave you spent but baptized.
It Ain’t the Whiskey I could write a book on. One of THE BEST songs I’ve ever heard on this subject matter. Not only does the lyric hit the bulls-eye of this demon, the song in its entirety touches upon admission, frustration, disgust and uncertainty. It’s a story with no resolution, just a telling. The organ laden funeral march musically complements the heaviness here and Gary’s gravelly vocals drive it to the heart. This song is a killer track that wreaks of No. 1 hit.
Sand in My Soul emerges with an enticingly mysterious melody that has you delightfully floating in the ethers of introspection. Some might call it a twisted trek through soul-searching but sometimes you gotta submerge before you emerge. This track’s a musical meditation you might just enjoy wallowing in for a bit.
You Without Me starts out as total romantic seduction. As Allan tenderly bleeds his confessional heart out with “when I look into your eyes I still get weak // and when I’m this close to you I just can’t speak…” you’re seduced. But just as you’re about to succumb to its sensual invitation an unsuspecting sting in the hook stabs you. It’s a realization awash with romantic reminiscence.
One More Time takes an introspective look at facing the pearly gates and questioning if you’d be ready or begging for more time. And aside from being addicted to “Set You Free”, I’ll willingly admit to being a word freak and “Set You Free” has lyrical ingenuity weaved throughout this cathartic journey that’ll move you like the tides. Hungover Heart is an outstanding lyrical analogy of love. It’s a play on words so masterfully crafted you’ll return repeatedly to enjoy the intoxication of this hangover.
But Gary doesn’t let you stay hungover for long. He sneaks in with the airy No Worries perking you up with a cup of dark roast reggae that’s sure to lift you from your doldrums. It’s a different sounding track from Allan’s usual trek through troubles but it’s a keeper and co-written by the Master of Misery himself.
“Set You Free” surely has some surprises and they don’t stop with No Worries.
Drop opens up sounding like the intro to a James Bond scene and as such grabs you with its musical ingenuity and mystery. Its sultry lyric tingles with temptation. Pour this on the rocks as your next nightcap and you’ll be blissfully hungover … just sayin !
Pieces, penned by Allan, is an upbeat anthem of acceptance that everywhere and everything we’ve been are what makes us who we are. Keep what you need, discard what you don’t and emerge …
Good As New sounds like a personal pledge of allegiance to happiness. Soaring high above the ethers of destruction from where you’d begun, it’s a joyful proclamation not only to the album but renewal.
All in all, “Set You Free” deviates a bit from Allan’s usual heaviness. But it’s sincere to the man and the musician and is a refreshing country sound compared to some of what’s coming out of Music Row these days.
I’ve willingly walked the twelve steps here with Gary and I gotta agree, “It ain’t the whiskey”. I’m still addicted – and I like it !
“Set You Free” is a must-have, can’t-pick-a-favorite album. It’s like a reflective, upbeat, optimistic friend walking with you from the dark side to the light.
And even though Gary’s emerged Good As New, he’s still the Master of Heartache who takes you through another musical journey with the signature sting of his whiskey soaked vocals and lyrics. He’s a genuine country rebel, true to himself and his music, whatever each of those are at the time. And he never disappoints. Both Gary and “Set You Free” are introspective, honest and sobering.
Gary Allan’s ninth studio album,”Set You Free”, is available January 22, 2013 at iTunes and retail outlets everywhere. Be sure to pickup or download your copy. This is one you don’t wanna miss !
Gary Allan Talks About the Album “Set You Free”
Gary Allan – Every Storm (Runs Outta Rain)
Be sure to hear Gary Allan tell you his favorite song off the album.