Tough All Over

Tough All Over

Those who need their country music prettified and sanitized, be warned: Gary Allan’s Tough All Over is a dose of honky tonk reality, the testimony of an artist who’s endured tragedy. Though his earlier releases have been potent works in the Merle Haggard/Buck Owens tradition, his latest release reaches a new level honesty and soulfulness. Love and the loss of it are the themes of tracks like “Best I’ve Ever Had,” “He Can’t Quit Her,” and “Putting My Misery on Display.” Allan’s vocals — as firmly wrought and scarred-up as a barroom floor — plumb the depths of heartache on “I Just Got Back From Hell” and reach for redemption on “Nickajack Cave.” Amidst these tales of suffering, he finds a hard-won peace on the wistful “Life Ain’t Always Beautiful.” Throughout, he carries himself with a rugged grace. Allan’s best album yet, Tough All Over is a brave, compelling act of confession.

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