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Gary Allan rings true

Showcase Live, Foxboro, Mass., May 31, 2009

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Gary Allan's first headlining foray into the Boston area in years was a lesson at least for a little while into what can happen to traditional country singers these days. The musicians veer towards rock with lots of guitar. At least that's what Allan did at the start of his gig - playing three rockers in a row, including his most recent single She's So California and A Feelin' Like That.

But then a good thing happened on the way to a very fine, muscular show. The Californian went back to his country roots - maybe not so far back as to when he started with the honky tonker CD, "Used Heart for Sale" in 1996, but enough that the country quotient was sufficiently high. He charged into the harder country portion of the show with his hits Nothing On But the Radio and That Would Be You.

Life has not always been kind for Allan, and his songs certainly reflect that. There's been a lot of loss and heartache - broken marriages and the death of one wife. Like any good country artist, he ultimately challenged the negatives into positives through songs.

That would include I Just Back From Hell and the honky tonking closer of the night Drinkin' Dark Whiskey, maybe the best song of the nearly 1 1/2-hour show.

The heartache doesn't seem to be leaving Allan any time soon either. He unveiled a good new song, Today, about losing a woman to another man and questioning the loss.

Allan always owned a great, full-bodied voice with an incredible amount of timbre and emotion. He displayed that time and again without once over-emoting before a very healthy crowd of about 925 people (capacity was 1,000). The sound mix rightfully put his vocals up high, standing above the musical fray even when the music rocked more. With such a strong instrument as Allan's vocals, why downplay a strength?

Allan also deserves a lot of credit of picking songs that fit him so well. There's a believability and authenticity to the delivery, while keeping the songs catchy, but not crossing the fine line so as to be too commercial.

Allan worked best when he kept his show more firmly planted on the country side. Lord knows, he has enough songs and personal experience to make it ring ever true.