Gary Allan – “Kiss Me When I’m Down”

Janet Goodman | October 20th, 2010

Gary AllanSongwriters: 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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  1. kris
    October 20, 2010 at 7:40 am

    I bought this CD and this track was one of my favorites all along.

  2. plain_jo
    October 20, 2010 at 11:27 am

    I love this song and would also like to hear “That Ain’t Gonna Fly” on the radio.

  3. WAYNOE
    October 20, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    I like his comment, “You’ll never hear me singing about tractors or farms, just because I don’t know anything about that stuff.” That applies to many today who thtough their singing tries to convince us that they are “from the country”.

    His comment could also apply to music critics but that would take too long to extrapolate here.

  4. Thomas
    October 20, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    …somewhere between playing possum and offering a quarter for another phone call. no other genre offers more variety for the broken hearted. tough luck, if you’re living in a happy relationship.

  5. Emgee
    October 20, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    Gary Allan is easily the most underrated artist in country music, if not all of music. Allan is probably my top favorite singer of all time.

    Though, to a large extent, being underrated caries a certain amount of advantages. I saw Gary Allan live a couple of weeks back, and his show, as expected, was stunning (I’d seen him twice before, once a a main act, once as an opener). One of the advantages of being as underrated as he is is that, while artists more in the mainstream, may feel the need to stick to radio singles that “radio-only fans” know, Allan’s fan-base is more likely to know the vast majority of his material, allowing him to stray from simply playing his singles. As a result, he was able to play album-cuts from “Get Off on the Pain” and “Tough All Over,” even going back and playing “Bourbon Borderline” from the “Smoke Rings in the Dark” album and expressing amazement and gratitude that the fans knew the song.

    “Kiss Me When I’m Down” is another single that, while it may not make it huge on the charts (let’s hope I’m wrong, but I’ve yet to hear this song on the radio), it will surely be a favorite among Gary Allan’s loyal fans.

  6. luckyoldsun
    October 20, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    Gary Allan is easily the most underrated artist in country music, if not all of music. Allan is probably my top favorite singer of all time. ????

    I’d be surprised if you’re enough of an expert on country music–and on “all of music”–to make such a defintive judgment. There are a lot of great artists out there.

  7. Josh
    October 20, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    I always thought that with Gary’s voice and Keith Urban’s guitar work…that’d be one awesome collaboration. Enough said…

  8. Freddy
    October 20, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    when people say “left of center” what does that refer to? I understand it’s something about not being mainstream… but where does it come from?

  9. Jon
    October 20, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    From politics – left correlating with progressive or edgy. FWIW, I feel good about never having used it in a musical context, and only four musicians I’ve ever interviewed have used it in one either.

  10. Stephanie
    October 20, 2010 at 6:03 pm

    I love the lyrics and Gary’s performance on this song but I’m not a fan of the production.

  11. Kyle
    October 20, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    “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…”

    Agreed with Waynoe (minus the cheap shot) that this is refreshing to hear. There’s a lot more to “country music” than sexy tractors and jacked-up trucks – it’s about the honest humanity of real situations.

  12. luckyoldsun
    October 20, 2010 at 10:48 pm

    Jon–
    That left/right thing deserves a whole post. Without knowing his politics, if a country artist seems to have an element of irony in his performance, he’s left of center. If he seems completely serious, he’s “right of center.” Gary Stewart was “left”/ Mel Street was “right.”

  13. JEAN
    October 24, 2010 at 9:35 am

    love you Gary your the greatest

  14. Thomas
    October 24, 2010 at 10:51 am

    …i wouldn’t go quite that far, jean, but it’s another fine piece of bombastic country(?) by gary allan. never before sounded the simple advice: “don’t wake up the whole bloody place, when you sneak out” so emotional in a slightly masochistic way.

  15. JOY
    October 24, 2010 at 11:42 am

    GARY ALLAN WHAT CAN I SAY HE IS AMAZING AN HE KNOWS HOW TO TREAT HIS AUDIENCE.I AM GLAD GARY IS GETTING THE THE LOVE AN SUPPORT FROM EVERYONE GARY HAS WORKED HARD TO GET WHERE HE IS AT TODAY. LOVE HIM ALWAYS.A FAN FOR LIFE A JUNKIE FOREVER AN WILL ALWAYS SUPPORT GARY

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