Gary Allan, "Set You Free" (MCA Nashville)
Gary Allan shows younger country singers the difference between true emotion and posturing on his searing new album, "Set You Free." Allan avoids all Nashville trends and clichés, as he has for most of his 17-year recording career. Instead, he digs deep into edgy songs that balance pain and self-reckoning with gritty determination and, ultimately, a hard-earned transcendence.
Experimenting with sounds and textures, Allan co-produced seven of the 11 tracks while collaborating with three different producers, among them the red-hot Jay Joyce. Allan also co-wrote five cuts, including the current country radio hit, "Every Storm (Runs Out Of Rain)." After recent vocal surgery, the California native sounds more expressive than ever, and the roller-coaster of feelings he instills in "Set You Free" illustrates why he's among the few contemporary country stars deserving of being called an artist.