Gary Allan

Set You Free

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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. Allan isn't trying much new here, but he whittles away any lingering impressions of confessional songwriting apparent on 2010's Get Off on the Pain and concentrates on the basics: love songs and heartbreak tunes, defiant rockers and good-time anthems. He has a few new wrinkles along the way, notably on the soulful groove of "Hungover Heart" and the lite reggae pulse of "No Worries," but what satisfies here is his clean, no-frills modern country: he puts grit into the boasts of "Bones" and heart into "Every Storm (Runs Out of Rain)" and when all the songs are put together, it adds up to an album that's easy to enjoy.

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