Baste the rough-and-tumble twang of Bakersfield with some of Nashville's radio-smart songwriting, and you've got Gary Allan's favorite recipe. The California singer is a master of the bad-boy ballad, the tearjerker, and the straight-talking, bar-stool story song. And Rodney Crowell-style, these classic country modes occasionally merge with rock and roll throughout Allan's seven-disc catalog, which includes the much-celebrated Smoke Rings in the Dark.
Last heard on 2005's Tough All Over, Allan mines the darkness beneath the swagger of the country-boy persona. Themes of self-destruction, vulnerability, addiction, and failed love frame a gritty reality. The bet here is that for all the Nashville gloss associated with mainstream country music, it's Allan's West Coast, roadhouse side that shines onstage.