2007 album from the Country favorite, a collection of new songs that are raw and emotional yet also hard-rockin' and filled with the dust and gravel from life's long journey to nowhere. Gary Allan is authentic Country who lives it the way he sings it: pure, realistic, honest and from-the heart. 11 tracks including 'Watching Airplanes'. MCA Nashville.
Gary Allan has long been the go-to guy for intelligent, edgy country music, informed by the sweaty honky-tonk of the stop-and-sock joints of Bakersfield, CA, and the angry rock & roll of seedy L.A. On Living Hard, he wisely refuses to reprise his previous studio album, 2005’s masterful Tough All Over, which framed the tragic aftermath of his wife’s suicide, even as "Yesterday’s Rain," a memorable lament, might make you think otherwise. Rather, Living Hard largely finds its inspiration in the hipper pop-rock that forged half of Allan's musical altar as a youth: the Eagles ("Like It’s a Bad Thing"), the Beatles ("As Long As You’re Looking Back"), the Rolling Stones ("Living Hard"). This homage is largely found in the instrumental dressings here, as Allan, whose guts-and-growl baritone always telegraphs as much resignation as rebellion, is too creative to salute those sounds outright. Nor is Allan going to corrupt his own authenticity: Co-writing six of the 11 cuts, he rarely rises above the melancholia that perpetually paints him as a man reeling from the jaw-breaking punch of fate that comes out of nowhere, best exemplified in the dazed glaze of "Watching Airplanes" and the brilliant barstool Zen of "Half of My Mistakes." But when he comes up for air, Allan sometimes does so with comic results. On "Wrecking Ball," a sexy roadhouse rocker hammered home on junkyard guitar, he tangles with the wrong woman, to cyclonic end: "She’s a tornado / I’m a trailer house / That girl’s a hurricane in a dress." Allan may be burning the candle at both ends, but on this song and elsewhere, he’s just as seduced by the mystery of his predicament as the rest of us. --Alanna Nash