Gary Allan hit the honky tonk circuit in his native Southern California at the seasoned age of 12. Playing in and out of the smoky, sweaty bars with his dad's band led Allan to follow in his father's footsteps and start his own band.
When Allan returned to those same honky tonks with his own combo, the sound was true Bakersfield country: Merle Haggard
, Buck Owens
, and the rest. Allan spent most of his twenties honing his skills as a new traditionalist country singer; finally, in 1996, he was picked up by the Decca
label. Used Heart for Sale appeared that year, and even if it was a bit timid, the album established Allan as a talented performer with plenty of potential. Two years later he returned with It Would Be You. This time out, Allan suffered from slick Nashville production, which winnowed away most of his whiskey-soaked barroom charm. Nevertheless, his talent shone through. In 1999, Decca
closed its doors. Allan's contract was picked up by MCA, which released his Smoke Rings in the Dark later that year. The album combined most of what Allan did best -- dusty honky tonk, cracked country ballads -- into a solid effort that didn't get too heavy with the Music City sheen. The album even included a rousing cover of the Del Shannon
classic "Runaway" that harked back to Allan's younger days on the honky tonk circuit. With 2001's Alright Guy, an accomplished mix of driving, dusty swagger and slow-burn croon, Allan proved that he was only getting better with age. Its single, "Man to Man," became the singer's first number one hit. Allan toured extensively in support of Alright Guy before beginning work on a follow-up album, and when See If I Care appeared in September 2003, it was another solid set of Bakersfield-derived country and poignant balladry. Tough All Over, a Top Ten hit, arrived in 2005. A greatest-hits collection was issued early in 2007, followed by a new studio project, Living Hard, later in the year. The single "Today" arrived in June 2009 and debuted on the chart at number 52; it was followed by the album Get Off on the Pain in early 2010. After a world tour and a rest, Allan went into the studio to record in 2012. The single "Every Storm (Runs Out of Rain)," appeared in September of that year, while its accompanying album, Set You Free, was released in January of 2013. ~ Johnny Loftus, Rovi