Gary Allan grows better and more assured with each album, and his third record, Smoke Rings in the Dark, is his best effort yet. Similar to the Mavericks, Allan stylishly blends a number of roots styles, from his signature Bakersfield country to dusty folk and pop crooning, into a neo-traditionalist sound that is curiously out of time. Allan is considerably more mainstream than the Mavericks, which means that the production is more polished and he doesn't really take musical risks. Even if he doesn't quite hold his own against some Americana artists, he certainly is stronger than many contemporary country artists, especially since he tries many different styles and sounds throughout Smoke Rings in the Dark. Not every song works, but even those that don't have still something recommendable in their performance or production. It's a fine album from an artist that keeps getting better.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine