Pick any Gary Allan album at random, you’d be hard pressed to find a true dud of a song on any of them. Sure, some of them may not be single-material, even if current country radio weren’t a hodge-podge of pop-rock-rap, whatever the flavor of the month is. But even those songs that might not be fit for single-release are still quality songs.
However, almost any other song on the album could easily be released as a single if country radio was still country. And in a perfect world, Allan would be racking up number one hits and CMA and ACM Awards in quantities to rival many of the greats.
But it’s not a perfect world. But there are still some things that can be counted on. And one of those things is that Gary Allan will NEVER sell-out his musical integrity for quick-hits and fast-bucks.
And Tough All Over is not only proof of that, but the album is, dare I say, perfect. Tough All Over is perfect in every way shape and form. Allan strikes the perfect balance between writing his own material solo (“Putting My Misery on Display”), co-writing (“I Just Got Back from Hell,” “Putting Memories Away,”), selecting songs that are fit for him (“Life Ain’t Always Beautiful,” “What Kind of Fool,”), and yes, even covering a pop/rock hit and making it as authentically country as it can get (“Best I Ever Had”). I could list every track on the album if I wanted to. It’s that good. It is that perfect.
And there’s probably a reason for that. Because for Allan, this wasn’t just making an album. It was therapy. Recorded and released in 2005, shortly after his wife’s suicide, Allan described the album as a therapeutic process. “Songwriting — that’s the best therapy there is for me. No matter what you are feeling inside, you can invite your friends over and kick around whatever emotion there is,” he says. “There’s so much healing in that. Pretty expensive therapy, though — making records. And I made that record.” (Ref. 1)
The best music comes from real-life experiences. Emotions and events that the songwriters really experienced and lived through. And while one could easily believe Gary Allan has lived every word he has ever sung, never has that been more prevalent than on Tough All Over. Every guitar chord, every stanza sung is like a dagger through the heart.
This isn’t feel-good music. This isn’t music you listen to at a party. This is nitty-gritty, raw, powerful stuff. It explores the spectrum of emotions of anger, sorrow, sadness, despair, and even in a few places, hope. It’s one of the few perfect albums ever made.
Buy Tough All Over on Amazon