Gary Allan is Nashville's best-kept secret. And maybe that's because this, Orange County, California-born cowboy surfer who still makes his home in Huntington Beach, finds his frequent touring takes him far from Music Row.
The musical influences on See If I Care, his fifth album, also travel a great distance, but remain true to Gary's roots. Gary's love of country idols like Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, George Jones, Willie Nelson, Buck Owens and Lefty Frizzell are blended with an appreciate for fellow So Cal rockers like the Blasters, X and Jane's Addiction to create his own unique style.
The aching torch ballad "Tough Little Boys," could be Allan's biggest hit yet. The single comes on the heels of his recent #1 hit, "Man To Man," from 2001's Gold-going-on-platinum Alright Guy, which also had a #3 smash in "The One." HE recently introduced "Tough Little Boys" into his live shows and was stunned by the instant response it evoked.
It's a song that comes, like all of Allan's best work, straight from the heart to his audience. "Kids can bring you to your knees no matter how tough you are," says the veteran singer. "I don't really like sappy songs, unless they're done sincerely and honestly."
The new album, produced by Allan with longtime collaborator Mark Wright (Lee Ann Womack, Brooks and Dunn), features many of the same musicians he's played with previously, including keyboardist Steve Nathan, drummer Chad Cromwell, electric guitarists Brent Rowan and Michael Rhodes, acoustic guitarist John Willis, with Dan Dugmore and Robby Turner on steel.
The production leaves in the rough edges, especially on the raucous honky-tonk of guitarist Mike Henderson's rowdy "Drinkin' Dark Whiskey" and the south-of-the-border Tex-Mex accordion strains of "Guys Like Me." Allan shows his gentler side on the plaintive, Roy Orbison-by-0way-of Chris Isaak blues of the Jamie O'Hara-penned "See If I Care," and on Brice Long, Odie Blackmon and Byron Hill's sensuous "Nothing On But The Radio," with its sawing fiddle and weeping steel guitar.
"I believe that's going to be a make-out song," drawls Allan about the latter's classic double-entendre title. "I can definitely hear that one on the radio,"
Other standouts include Pat McLaughlin's "Songs About Rain," a name-check of tunes like "Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again" and "Rainy Night In Georgia" that Allan sings in what he calls his "best Tom Petty imitation." He co-wrote "You Don't Know A Thing About Me" with Jamie O'Hara and Odie Blackmon, and it's as close as you'll get to a personal revelation from Allan. His moving, semi-autobiographical version of Jesse Winchester's "A Showman's Life" reminds you that this young veteran started performing in clubs with his father and older brother Greg when he was just 12, writing songs by the time he was 14 and turning down record contracts at 15.
"That song is so true," he admits. "Just seeing the underbelly of show business - the other side of the curtain, so to speak. It killed me when I first heard it."
From the very start of his career, being true to himself has brought Allan to the brink of stardom. His dad Harley "smoked, drank and played bars," introducing him to the music of his icons. As a youngster Allan's father took him to see artists like Merle Haggard, Ernest Tubb, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. He also spent time branding cattle on the family ranch in Lancaster. This is no rhinestone cowboy, folks. Gary Allan is the real deal.
After releasing a pair of albums on Decca ('96's Used Heart For Sale included the Top 10 country single, "Her Man" and '98's It Would Be You), he signed to MCA Nashville for '99's Smoke Rings In The Dark. The platinum album produced two hit singles in the title-track and "Right Where I Need To Be," helping to establish Gary as a heartthrob with the likes of People and Country Weekly calling him "country music's sexiest star."
Now, it appears the stars are finally aligned for Allan. "I'm proud of this album," he says. "I think we walk the line between commercial success and critical acclaim. It's made our career start slower, but I think we'll be around a lot longer. I feel like, in the past, with each record, something's gone wrong. But with this album and the last one, it's the first time I haven't felt that. I think we're going to get our best shot. Everything is coming together for us."
See If I Care reveals Gary Allan as a sturdy traditionalist who's not afraid to embrace the future, a man who unabashedly mixes country with rock. A "Tough Little Boy" who has grown into an impressive guy.
--- from the official Gary Allan website