Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
Gary Allan always has exuded a coolness and attitude in his demeanor and music. He is cut from a different cloth - a surfer dude from California who decided on country. And while yet to achieve true star status after 6 albums, Allan has enjoyed sufficient success to merit a greatest hits CD with 15 songs including 2 new ones.
There's a lot of timbre and feeling in Allan's voice ("Smoke Rings in the Dark" where he goes soft and tough within a few bars, and "Her Man"), perhaps his greatest strength on a bunch of songs - none written by Allan - with a bit of a retro, traditional feel (the swaying "Nothing On But the Radio" "Man to Man"). Throughout his career, Allan has eschewed the pop sounding direction of country acts, which in hindsight may have negatively impacted his commercial success.
Allan doesn't tend to paint pretty pictures, none more obvious than his last disc, "Tough All Over," cobbled together in the wake of his wife's suicide. That was one tough listen with half of the album being just great, including the two included here "Best I Ever Had" and "Life Isn't Always Beautiful."
Two new uptempo songs are included - the hit "A Feelin' Like That" and "As the Crow Flies." The former is catchy, though a bit too big sounding song with a lot of pedal steel.
Coolness or attitude can only go so far. Ultimately, it's the music that must shine, and Allan's musical vision works.