On Gary Allan (Finally) Announcing His New Album “Ruthless”
Like a log jam cutting loose, country fans have been handsomely rewarded recently by new albums from country legends after lengthy delays, and announcements about others on-the-way. We just got the first record from Travis Tritt in some 14 years in Set and Stone, and it’s pretty darn solid. Soon we’ll have the new album from Alan Jackson Where Have You Gone, and so far what we’ve heard from that has been pretty superb as well. Even Jamey Johnson might be getting in on the game soon after years of no new album.
And among all this, we also got confirmation that Gary Allan will be making his album return finally on June 25th when he releases his long-anticipated 10th album entitled Ruthless after nearly eight years, making a big announcement about the 13-track album Thursday evening, May 6th via social media.
Many true country fans were ecstatic at the news, but I fear some folks have visions of getting a slew of new songs from Gary along the lines of “Nothing On but the Radio” and “Smoke Rings in the Dark” when we already have multiple indications that’s unlikely the direction Gary Allan will be taking here.
I hate to be a wet blanket—and most certainly there’s nothing wrong with hoping for the best—but the long delay in Gary Allan music is not a case of an artist just not seeing the point of putting forth the the effort to record and release a studio record. It’s been due to a period in Gary Allan’s career when he’s been trying to find a second commercial wind, and failing.
It all started after a 2013 interview with Larry King, when King asked Gary Allan if he thought artists such as Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood were country.
“You know, I would say no,” Allan responded. “I would say they’re pop artists making a living in the country genre. I also feel like we lost our genre. I don’t feel like I make music for a genre anymore, and I did, you know, 15 years ago. But I think since the Clear Channel’s and the Cumulus’s and the big companies bought up all the chains, now it’s about a demographic. You know, so they’ve kind of sliced everything up, feeding it to the public in demographics.”
Of course what Gary said is 100% correct. But in country music, you’re not supposed to say the quiet part out loud or you’ll be ostracized, and that’s what happened to Allan subsequently. Where before Allan enjoyed strong support from the country radio format with four #1’s, eleven total Top 10’s, and nineteen Top 25 hits, all of a sudden Gary Allan couldn’t buy a spin on radio.
Gary’s last single from his last album “It Ain’t The Whiskey” released around the time of the comments on Larry King stalled at #40. Then Gary Allan commenced a period where he tried to reinvent himself into a sort of Sam Hunt/Thomas Rhett character, releasing the pretty terrible single “Hangover Tonight” which stalled at #49 in 2015.
This was chased by “Do You Wish It Was Me?” that stalled at #57 in 2016, “Mess Me Up” in 2017 that stalled at #45, and “Waste of a Whiskey Drink” in 2020 that stopped at #60. Instead of facing the reality that radio was done with him, Gary Allan seemed to be doing everything he could to fall back into their good graces by releasing radio-friendly material, and still failing.
Over the last eight years, word is Gary Allan scrapped at least one entire album, and started working with radio-friendly producers and songwriters such as Shane McAnally and busbee (RIP) who both have songwriting credits in the track list for Ruthless. And it didn’t take long after Gary Allan’s announcement Thursday night to get our first taste of new music with his new single “Temptation” being released at midnight Eastern. It’s not terrible or anything, but it sounds like a radio hit, which isn’t exactly a compliment. But again, it’s very circumspect if radio will even play it.
This isn’t to completely squash the excitement some are feeling at the announcement of a new Gary Allan album. But hoping for the best while stealing yourself for the worst is probably the smart posture to take with this particular one. Unlike guys such as Alan Jackson, Travis Tritt, and Jamey Johnson, I’m not sure Gary Allan is ready to give up on the idea of getting radio play, and getting back to what he does best just yet. Maybe his is though. Or maybe this record will be a mix.
We’ll just have to wait and see.
Gary Allan’s Ruthless Tracklist:
1. “Temptation” (Nicolle Galyon, Chase McGill, Jon Nite)
2. “Waste of a Whiskey Drink” (Josh Kear, Michael Hardy, Mark Holman)
3. “Till It Felt Like You: (Kyle Jacobs, Joe Leathers, Matt Warren)
4. “Slide” (Ross Ellis, Alex Kline, Michael Whitworth)
5. “Pretty Damn Close” (Gary Allan, Sarah Buxton, Rodney Clawson, Warren)
6. “High as I’ve Ever Been” (Warren, James Slater, Skip Black)
7. “What I Can’t Talk About” (Jim Beavers, Lindsay Rimes, Matt Rogers)
8. “SEX” (Galyon, Shane McAnally, Matt Jenkins)
9. “Trouble Knows Trouble” (Steve Bogard, Jason Sever, John Edwards)
10. “Ruthless” (Hillary Lindsey, busbee, Ryan Hurd)
11. “Unfiltered” (Blair Daly, Brad Warren, Brett Warren)
12. “Little Glass of Wine” (Jesse Winchester)
13. “The Hard Way” (Warren and Carey Ott)
May 9, 2021 @ 8:32 am
Wow 8 year hiatus and only 1 songwriting credit… not the most prolific writer but usually gets at least 4-5 songs on a album.
May 9, 2021 @ 8:42 am
His comments about pop artists in a country world aren’t wrong but unfortunately this is more of Allan chasing radio that don’t give a shit about him anymore. Radio will still smoke his weed, take Universal’s promo money and go home with female stragglers after a Gary Allan show but they won’t play his records. He could’ve grown older gracefully and made great records past 2010. It’s just kinda weird that he fell into that radio chase after wanting to be what he could’ve become in his first 4-5 records.
If he got back to what made “Smoke Rings” great; sonically & musically, that’s really when he found IT for him. Whatever it is; label, producer or management; he needs to change something to get even an original creative spark back.
Anyone else think Dave Cobb could get Gary Allan back to that?
May 9, 2021 @ 9:00 am
A full grown man, no less.
How about writing songs for a demographic that will actually listen to you, Gary? Woops, did I say that out loud?
If you sing real songs about us, we’ll listen. McAnally doesn’t give a sh*t about country people. He’s making bank writing southern pop for suburbanites buying a lifestyle fantasy.
It’s like watching a good old boy getting drunk on White Claw, turning around unzipped, and pissing all over our jeans. The bro and boyfriend types have been doing this for years. We turned them to face the other way.
What is it going to take to convince these guys that working on suburban pop is like taking a kick to the groin?
There are better ways of making a living … if the recent job creation report wasn’t so unbelievably sh*tty thanks to the Jao Bai Den administration.
May 9, 2021 @ 9:23 am
I wish Gary all the best. I hope his new album will be great. really like the song that was posting.
May 9, 2021 @ 9:43 am
It ain’t the whiskey should’ve been a number 1 song. Gary got robbed. I hope he gives up on the radio and just makes good music.
May 9, 2021 @ 9:52 am
Am I the only one that thinks his announcement video is super cringeworthy? After watching that, I’m expecting complete disappointment. I just don’t get it. This guy could kill it if he just accepted that he’s not going to get on radio anymore and stopped trying to ride the fence of being radio friendly while trying to be genuine and honest. A song called Sex? Songs written by some of the worst offenders in pop country? This is going to be complete garbage. I’ll always love Gary Allans voice and the style of his earlier music, but this latest work is awful.
May 9, 2021 @ 10:08 am
I agree 100% and it’s tough to watch unfold. Gary is still one of my favorites but the songwriting credits gave me awfully nervous.
May 14, 2021 @ 2:01 pm
I didn’t really care for the new song. I like a lot of his older stuff, this definitely sounds too pop for my taste.
May 9, 2021 @ 9:57 am
To me Gary Allan is one of the better country artists of the 2000s, and it’s extremely puzzling why he’d take the route of looking for radio play with his music now. Maybe he just can’t let it go. The smart move is to release the kind of music that he used to release, the kind that he’s good at, and old fans will listen. He’s not gonna gain any 16 year old Sam Hunt fans. Time to grow old gracefully and not taint a solid legacy. A regular style Gary Allan album would also likely sell better, which makes this all the more puzzling.
May 9, 2021 @ 9:59 am
The fact that there’s a song called “SEX” (all capital letters?) has me very concerned… I’m also not a huge fan of Temptation… I like the guitar hits on the chorus, but other than that it sounds like the production on a cheesy Contemporary Christian song…
I never considered Gary Allan to be on the same level as other contemporary stars (Paisley, Turner, etc.), he always seemed like a “B” star to me, but I always bought and enjoyed his albums. We’ll see…
May 9, 2021 @ 10:43 am
You can say, he’s always lived his career on the B-Sides
May 9, 2021 @ 10:28 am
Trying to buy cred. with the profusion of tattoos?
Sounds like lyrics from kindergarden 101 songwriting class.
May 9, 2021 @ 10:41 am
He should release a Motown project
North Woods Country
May 9, 2021 @ 11:38 am
Those song titles and songwriting credits are terrifying.
But hey, Thomas Rhett pulled of a brilliant bait and switch song title with the wonderful “Ya Heard.” Hopefully that’s also the case, here.
May 9, 2021 @ 12:09 pm
I’m more concerned with:
Why does a man with a history of spotty radio airplay – care so much (20+ years later) about capturing the top of the radio charts?
I get if Brad Paisley or George Strait still cared… But Gary doesn’t have many top 10 airplay hits. 11 hits after 20 years isn’t ground breaking, especially in an era where most artists released 3 or 4 singles per year
May 9, 2021 @ 4:11 pm
The song here sounds 80s with the heavy keyboards. Not Allan at his best. Even Watching Airplanes was way better than this. Pop music…..
He had some great moments in the past like Just Got Back From Hell. ( my personal favorite) and Nickajack Cave. Life Aint Always Beautiful was pretty pop crossover sounding, but it was a powerful song. Good material is what he needs. Not dreck like this latest thing.
May 9, 2021 @ 6:01 pm
Loving Gary new song! Can’t wait for the cd to come out on July 25th. Totally love Gary!
steven L gulke
May 10, 2021 @ 6:16 am
May 9, 2021 @ 6:17 pm
While I’m a big fan of Gary’s older music (especially the first four albums) and still consider him one of the better mainstream country artists currently out there, I’ve been less than thrilled with the pop/rock direction he’s taken his music since the late 00’s. Tough All Over was the last album from him I truly enjoyed. Unfortunately, this new song and seeing some of the songwriting credits for the new album doesn’t give me any high hopes that he’s making a return to his “Smoke Rings” glory days anytime soon. I’m actually a bit confused by this, as I heard him comment last year that he’d been recording with the same producer and musicians as the Smoke Rings album, which made me more excited about his new music than I am now. Still, it’s Gary, so surely there’ll still be at least a few good cuts on it.
May 10, 2021 @ 7:49 am
You know I must be in the minority in thinking “Living Hard” and “Get Off on The Pain” were solid albums. I feel like the shift in his sound started with Tough all over with more rock pop production. Get Off on The Pain was solid from start to finish with no song being a stand out just solid music and Living hard is a really god pop rock record save “Wrecking Ball” and “Like It’s a Bad Thing” and the rest were at worst good. Set You Free is a mixer bag but I am worried about this album.
May 9, 2021 @ 7:50 pm
If memory serves me correctly, that scraped album of his was reportedly named The Hard Way (last track). I wonder how many tracks from there made it unto this.
I wish him all the best but this album announcement is not exactly good news.
Sir Adam the Great
May 9, 2021 @ 10:25 pm
A whole album of songs about the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her legacy concerning this Supreme Court? It’s a bold move, Cotton. Let’s see if it pays off for him.
Seriously, that cover’s pretty metal.
May 10, 2021 @ 12:27 am
“Temptation” is a pop song. What is country about that beside his voice? Complaining about losing the genre, and recording songs like that? Doesn´t exactly lend him credibility.
May 10, 2021 @ 3:10 am
He comes across as a middle aged mom trying to dress up like her teenage daughters to think she’s being cool to hang out with them. It’s definitely cringy as heck but hopefully the music isn’t quite as bad. There’s a just too much of a feel of desperation and trying to be cool and relevant instead of being who you are going on with it.
May 10, 2021 @ 4:49 am
I saw his show at the Roxy in Atlanta a couple of years ago. Too much of everything. Too rock, too loud, too much strutting. It really was cringeworthy. He only sang one of his known songs in the first half of the show. My poor eardrums couldn’t take it anymore, so I left. Mr. Herzberg is trying too hard.
May 10, 2021 @ 10:01 am
Doesn’t make much sense to burn the ship in the interview like that, and then commence to scrounging driftwood to build a raft.
His early stuff had a well defined Country mission objective. Life’s unpredictability led to course changes, but still some genuine art.
I think at this point radio stardom is a mirage on the horizon. As of late, a lot of heavy hitters have released very good albums and gotten zero radio attention in return. He probably ought to turn his back on the beach, find fresh water inland, and build something of substance.
May 10, 2021 @ 10:18 am
Does this mean “Ruthless” won’t be a cover of the 1967 Statler Brothers hit???
May 10, 2021 @ 2:14 pm
This first song sounds like something Elevation church would release for a youth group event
Ronald D Dawson
May 10, 2021 @ 7:05 pm
Maybe Gary Allan is the Rick Nelson of Country music. Rick had a lot of hits early in his career. When he tried to change with the times. Radio had trouble accepting him again. Then he wrote a song about it and it was a big hit. Untill we here the whole album. i would say it’s hard to be critical. I like Temptation. The lyrics are about what I have experienced in life. Gary’s early hits spoke to me in the same way. I am looking forward to hearing the album.
June 25, 2021 @ 4:04 am
Been a Gary fan since 2001, in the Smoke Rings days. Disappointed with this new sound since Hangover Tonight. And if there’s one more whiskey song~glass~drinking of whiskey in a video. We get it!! Still love the old songs and continue to be a fan but cringe worthy new CD for sure.