I am tempted to say that Ruthless is just the tenth studio album by Gary Allan. The legendary country music artist is on stage since the early 1980’s. His previous album Set You Free has been released in January 2013 – Ruthless is available physically and digitally since 25th June 2021.
Gary Allan – About The Artist
Gary Allan Herzberg was born on 5th December 1967. He is from La Mirada in Greater Los Angeles. He grew up in a very music-focused family and Gary played his first honky tonks with his father Harley at the age of 13. Allan has already been offered a record deal in the early 1980’s, but he declined. He finally signed with Decca Records more than a decade later, in 1996. Used Heart for Sale was the debut album emerging from that collaboration (in the same year). The album made it into the Top 20 for the US Country Album Charts, also driven by his debut single Her Man, which was Top 10 in the US and in the Canadian Country Charts.
With its title track, the following album It Would Be You featured another US Country Top 10 song. In 1999, his third album Smoke Rings in the Dark was the first one to make it into the US Country Top 10. On top of that, the album went platinum.
This has truly been the inception of a great career of Gary Allan. None of the six studio albums thereafter peaked worse than fourth in the US country charts. There were also some country chart leading singles, like Man to Man (his first one, 2002), Nothing On but the Radio (2004) or Every Storm (Runs Out of Rain) in 2012. The latter was part of Set You Free, the last album Allan released so far.
Gary Allan – Ruthless – Track by Track
The thirteen track album lasts 46 minutes.
You’ll always gonna be my weakness
The high I’ll always crave
I’m over getting drunk on you but
I’m always gonna miss that taste
I’ll always be that one mistake
I gonna be almost making
Even if I never cross that line
You’ll always be my temptation
There have been some scattered non-album singles since Gary Allan’s previous album – but already the Ruthless opener Temptation shows that Allan is still an excellent artist: the first song is powerful with smashing guitars, a good rhythm – and gentle string sounds. Sounds a bit of contrasting, but in fact works out really well.
2. Waste Of A Whiskey Drink
Waste Of A Whiskey Drink has been an amazing success when the track has been released before the album. A really good modern country track which has a nice flow and good work on the guitar again.
3. Till It Felt Like You
Till It Felt Like You is the first song Gary Allan fans don’t know yet. The song comes with rather quiet verses. The chorus contrasts with a lot of power and energy, just as Nashville produces it quite frequently. There is a strong mainstream flavor in that song, but Gary Allan just makes it to keep the song special.
What if I fall and I can’t fly?
I’m not what your heart had in mind
For what it’s worth you know I’ll try
So if I slip, could you let it slide?
The backing vocals whispering Slide in the parts of the song are a bit too much for me, but if you forget about them, Slide is another nice country rocker with a lot of potential to stay in your mind.
5. Pretty Damn Close
Pretty Damn Close starts a section of three songs, which have not been released before the album. This fifth track gives a nice new flavor to the album. The howling steel guitar gives a lovely melodic bedding for this emotional love song. Girl, you got me thinking if this ain’t perfect, it’s pretty damn close. The song is maybe not perfect, but definitely one of my most favorite listens on the album.
6. High As I’ve Ever Been
If Gary Allan wants to make the masses dance to his music on one of the next festivals, High As I’ve Ever Been is a perfect choice. A very powerful and present song, which also comes with a certain touch of simplicity to get into your head quickly.
7. What I Can’t Talk About
I am still looking for a song which is a nice fit to the album cover. The verses of What I Can’t Talk About are a bit of dark-ish, but overall, Gary Allan stays in line with many songs on the album before. That’s maybe the biggest critics on the album so far: this seventh song is definitely a good recording, but it is hard to define its own role on the album. Other songs are just comparably close to it.
I just talked about that songs need to have something special to emancipate against the other songs on an album. SEX does that in perfection. The song makes me smile. A bit slower in tempo, especially in the beginning, it is simply three minutes about a topic Americans like to overturn by a beeper or similar. If you are too sensible about this topic, better skip the song completely – but you will definitely miss a good one. Two nice passanges of the song are
It goes good with a record
Goes good with the rain
If you can’t get it, you can’t get it off your brain
Or, from the chorus:
It’s just an s
It’s just an e
It’s just an ex, calling up in the middle of the night
Sometimes it’s wrong, sometimes it’s right
Even at it’s worse, it’s still the best
Country music can sometimes be that straight… and that true. Love it!
9. Trouble Knows Trouble
The ninth track is the last one on the album, which has already been published before the album. A dark touch and rather slow. Cool to listen to, one of the best vocal performances on the album, by the way.
Here we go, the title track is on position #10. A rather slow and rather traditional sounding country track, which comes witch a nice groove and steel guitar and organ sounds. This lovely arrangement (there are even trumpets in it…) turns the song to a really lovely listen.
The rather limited instrumentation and arrangement of this eleventh track really turns this eleventh song into a rather Unfiltered experience. Cool sound – a song just made to close your eyes and enjoy. Or as a starter for good… I refer to track number eight….
12. Little Glass Of Wine
Little Glass Of Wine could be a Willie Nelson one. The song feels very condensed, limited to the just necessary sounds. An almost acoustic experience – which has a touch of being outdated, but is just too beautiful to be square.
13. The Hard Way
The album really closes The Hard Way. The distortion of the guitar and the touch of doing this song in a bit of a “dirty” recording even gives this song a touch of alternative rock music. Great finale – the last songs lead to many surprises – all in a positive manner.
Gary Allan – Ruthless – Spotify
Here is Gary Allan’s album on Spotify:
Gary Allan – Ruthless – My View
While listening to Ruthless, I there were some parts of the songs, which made me struggle whether the album might become a bit too monotonous. I was really wrong – especially the last seven, eight songs add an amazing amount of character to this 2021 album by Gary Allan that it is close to a masterpiece. Even if you don’t like all of the songs, you will definitely find your favorites!
Museums & Exhibitions – 2021 Top Picks!
Flyctory.com – List of all Media Reviews
Here is the list of all my Media Reviews (majorly music):