Review Summary: Venturing down the same dirt road with more grey hairs showing this time around, but finding success all the same.
Age has never been something known for bringing a halt to, or even slowing down country musician's careers. Those who can’t manage to stay as enigmatically youthful and inspired as Toby Keith when they hit 50 usually wind down and settle into a comfortably acoustic and bluesy state for the remainder of their careers, preventing their elderly-status from eroding the quality of their music. On his ninth album Set You Free
, Gary Allan has proved himself to be sort of a combination of both personas; an artist who willingly wields the experience and wisdom of a true veteran, but never allows the fact that he mostly found success in the past make him seem like a has-been or close to retirement. Set You Free
defines Allan as both a country sage, and a middle-aged man that still has a lot of youth left in him and is far from done being loud.
Allan aims high for radio hits on the first few tracks, giving his guitar a workout by bringing out the electric power ballads right out of the gate. The usual crisp atmosphere of the slick melodies in “Every Storm (Runs Out of Rain)” are traits that have always made Allan’s music a refresher from the usual dusty and twangy ballads from the younger modern wave of countrymen. Set You Free
is a much more clean and smooth album out of a genre that thrives off of, and relishes in a rustic reputation, and similar to John Mayer and Keith Urban, that method still works effectively in separating Allan from the crowd and heightening his appeal to fans of a more adult contemporary sound as well.
The reflective singer-songwriter moments are not in short supply by any means, but the difference from the norm here is that Allan doesn’t feel like he’s done or nearing the end of his journey in the music bizz when he’s recollecting his past. A reminiscent attitude of passing days, while keeping in bright spirits of the years to come is something that makes Set You Free
play as a record free from any constraints or doubts. Though while he yields success in them, there seems to be an overabundance of these ballads. “Bones” is the only real rocker to be found here, and even if it does romp enough to merit returning listens, the same energy might have helped Set You Free
seem more exuberant overall.
Set You Free
doesn’t chart any new territory for Allan, and it could use some differentiation throughout, but Allan has managed to mine the same hole from an adjusted perspective that works very well, and on this outing, doing what he does best is so fresh that it dismisses any wrinkles he may have while doing so.