Gary Allan – “Kiss Me When I’m Down”
Songwriters: Andrew Dorff, Josh Kear, Chris Tompkins
He’s been described as a maverick and an outlaw, but when Gary Allan is more a lonely soul than bad boy, and teamed with a well-written song, he’s stunning to hear. His own brand of singing–one part grit, two parts ache–quivers with emotion, and he not only makes his disappointments believable, he makes us feel them in the gut right along with him.
New single “Kiss Me When I’m Down” is the third release off his eighth studio album, Get Off On The Pain, on MCA Records. Following in the visceral footsteps of his last two singles, “Kiss Me When I’m Down” reveals a man on the verge of sinking to self-destructive emotional lows, willing to take back an old girlfriend, knowing that it’s not a smart move and expecting to be hurt again, yet desperate for one more hour with her.
Far from showcasing uber stylish and clever writing that’s been the Nashville norm the last decade (of which another Kear/Tompkins collaboration, “Before He Cheats,” is a prime example), this song is stripped down and conversational, with just enough furniture to bring the scene to life, starkly showing us the singer’s world rather than limply telling us how he feels. Selling the melancholy lyric with honest yearning as much as rugged tone, Allan doesn’t let a word get wasted along the way: “It’s been a year since last weekend/When you swung by with an old friend/And carried out our future box by box.” He delivers pain unlike any of his contemporaries; maybe only Jones and Cash could express suffering with the same believability.
Producer Mark Wright chose an over-the-top string arrangement, creating a broad cinematic sweep; Allan’s vocal command is such that he manages to keep the sonic atmosphere grounded despite the extra drama in the swelling choruses.
Often overlooked at awards time and a little left of center on the radio dial, he’s not the cookie-cutter country music type. Allan admits, “You’ll never hear me singing about tractors or farms, just because I don’t know anything about that stuff.” What he does know about is the dark side of being human; screw-ups and scars are the stuff that builds the border around his comfort zone, and that’s where he often does his best singing. His masochistic, rock-anthem title track, “Get Off On The Pain,” provided a welcome reprieve from the first cut off the album to reach radio last year–“Today”–with its dreary, draggy and forlorn melody. This trilogy feels complete now, and Allan needs to move on to lighter-weight up tempo material from this record for single number four, something like the wicked fun “That Ain’t Gonna Fly.”
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