March 18, 2010

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Gary Allan, Get Off On the Pain
MCA Nashville Records, March 9

Casual country fans will have noted by now that the praise being ladled over Cali-cowboy Allan is seemingly faint, centering specifically on what he isn’t doing, i.e. “the stuff that’s wrong with country these days.” Think about that a second, though, and anyone would be at least slightly intrigued: who needs another album that follows the sequence of loud-dumb NASCAR/America-rules rocker into loud-dumb ah’m-drunk-and-she-done-me-wrong into loud-dumb I’m-drunk-and-dancing-because-hell-yeah-you-dummies-need-comedy-relief?

None of that here, even if it does get a bit too babe-targeted; Allan’s first-ever headlining tour, later this year, will come in suffocatingly tight Wranglers sure as these musical confections will catapult him into the Bigs, and there are times where the absence of (if not quite need for) some sort of head-busting Rascal Flatts rebel dumbassedness is so palpable that you almost expect it. But this stuff — tasty, tasteful soloing; a thankful lack of radio-fritzing high-end; just enough blue-collar romance to keep one from gagging — is a quantum leap when laid against the status quo, no doubt. A-EWS