Gary Allan Get Off On The Pain

Genuine honky-tonk singers working within the Nashville mainstream are a rare breed. Allan is one such artist, but the veteran's new album (his ninth) shows signs of Music City blight. The main culprit is the use of syrupy strings that turn a ballad like "I Think I've Had Enough" into something saccharine. When he relies on pedal steel instead, as on "We Fly By Night" and "No Regrets," the results are much more pleasing. Allan's rich, robust voice remains appealing, while his strength as a songwriter is shown on his five co-writes here. The usual A-list of session musicians (Dan Dugmore, Brent Rowan, Kenny Greenberg, etc.) ensures skilled instrumentation, but some grittier touches would have been welcome. On the title track, Allan sings: "I ride the wrong road just as fast as I can." But he sticks to the middle of the road too often here. (MCA Nashville)