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Tough All Over

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iTunes Review

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.

Customer Reviews

Tough to Find Better Than "Tough All Over"

"Get up Johnny Cash, I ain't through with you yet." Tough All Over marks a new chapter in Gary Allan's music catalog. He firmly establishes himself as the leader of neo-traditionalist country music, while holding onto the catchy melodies and thought-provoking lyrics that made his previous efforts so memorable. After braving a family tragedy last year, Mr. Allan, the consummate gentleman, jumps back into the ring with snarling harmonica in one hand, and rockin' gee-tar in the other. Throughout the lyrically saddening, Tough All Over, Gary wears his heart on his sleeve - it's no surprise that his audience always roots for him. The collection feels like two albums in one: a familiar country story intertwined with some serious rock undertones; but it is the constant state of sorrow and ultimate resuscitation that draws you in. The title track (and future #1 anthem) is made for playing live and loud. No longer does Gary settle for plain ol' California-honky-tonk like "Alright Guy" and "Drinkin Dark Whiskey". This time around he goes Johnny Cash on us and faces life's hardships head-on (while ultimately prevailing) in "Nickajack Cave" where he cannonizes the legendary singer, and he himself becomes one part storyteller and two parts C.I.T. (Cash-in-training). Forget his Willie Nelson obsession from previous works, Allan now sets his sights on the footsteps of Mr. Cash with some serious, bordering on sinister, musicality that promotes good over evil and solid guitar work. This man-in-black role could suit Gary well for the future..."Smoke Rings in the Dark" and "See If I Care" indeed. During "I Just Got Back from Hell" Gary, the soldier, is on a mission for everyman and woman. Again, the undercurrent sorrow is prevalent, but altogether we are rallied to arrive at a state of self-betterment, picking ourselves up, to get back on our feet. By the time we reach the album finale "Puttin' My Misery On Display" - a bluesy, rock epic that boasts shades of Aerosmith and a haunting, "talking" guitar, we fully understand that Tough All Over is not about being a tough guy, but moreso a comment on the difficult state of things and how we can overcome them. Gary declares his independence on the more conventional "Puttin' Memories Away" and hits mid-tempo perfection with the two tunes (again, surefire #1's) "Best I Ever Had" and the all too-brief "Life Ain't Always Beautiful". While the album is rounded out with some more familiar Bakersfield Gary Allan fare - which is heartily welcomed like meeting up with an old friend - the standout track is "He Can't Quit Her" which speaks of obsession, jealousy and jonesin' ending up on the wrong side of a '45. Sick, good, stuff. The overall direction of the album is engaging and accomplished. Tough All Over marks an evolution in Gary's musical style - it's state-of-the-art Country that should be his biggest selling album to date. Keep the music flowing, MCA, you've got a true talent here.


I have been a Gary fan from the beginning, and this by far is his best. It reaches so deep inside it's hard to listen to it. The pain in his songs is almost palpable. There are songs-I Just Got Back From Hell, Promises Broken & Life Ain't Always Beautiful-the truly catch your breath in your throat because you can feel his agony. My heart still goes out to him for the loss of his wife, but out of that deep sadness comes his absolute best yet.

Something in Common

Having lost my husband 2 years ago, I have something in common with Gary Allan. He lost his wife, and has found a brilliant way of working through his pain in working on this album. After just listening to "Life Ain't Always Beautiful", and having tears in my eyes, all I can say is Thank You for writing this. Brilliant CD!


Born: December 5, 1967 in La Mirada, CA

Genre: Country

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

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...
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Tough All Over, Gary Allan
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