Tour mate Gary Allan is in a brighter place

By John Benson

In theory, country crooner Gary Allan and pop-rock singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow don’t share much more than both calling the Nashville area home.

However, the two are joining forces for a miniature co- headlining tour that includes a Monday show at the Canfield Fair.

“I’ve done a lot of acoustic shows with her, and that’s kind of when we set up this tour,” said Allan calling from a Midland, Texas, golf course. “We’re way looking forward to it. It should be fun. She’s super cool. I think we’re a little bit rock and she’s a little bit country. And, she has a country album. As soon as I heard it, I wanted to get involved.”

Allan said Canfield Fair attendees should expect him to share the stage with Crow on her Kid Rock-hit “Picture.”

Speaking of playing a fair, the platinum country artist said he has hundreds of those gigs behind him. Not only does he enjoy a good turkey leg from time to time but Allan points to fair audiences as being unique from normal concertgoers.

“The concert is usually included in the fair admission so you normally get a more colorful crowd,” Allan said. “Shoot, just a couple of weeks ago we had just a giant mudfest. It was definitely something to see. So it’s a different crowd but it’s always a good time.” It should be noted that Monday’s concert at the Canfield Fair is not included with the price of admission to the fair.

Being different is something Allan said he aspires to do with every one of studio albums. This includes his recently released ninth studio effort, “Set You Free,” which came out earlier this year. Sure, the Music City giant, with more than 7 million albums sold and five No. 1 hits to his credit, maintained his gritty vocal and renegade spirit with the new album, but he stressed the project differs in tone from 2012’s “Icon.”

“I lost my wife awhile ago to suicide, so I think most of my albums reflected that,” Allan said “I was reading previous album [reviews] about how my writing was about how down I was. So this time I wanted to write from a brighter place. I wanted to write a redemption record, an album about hope. That was the goal going in, and I think we did it.”

Allan said “Set You Free” plays out like a breakup song. That is, it starts off with the heartbreak of “Tough Goodbye” and goes on a journey before finding the uplifting “Good As New.” He added, “It has all of the anger and whiskey, and everything you’d go through in a breakup.”

“Set You Free” also marked a first for Allan, who normally writes on the guitar. This time out he widened his scope a bit, resulting in the laidback “No Worries.”

“It’s kind of an island tune,” he said. “I wrote it on a ukulele. I quickly realized you couldn’t write [depressing] material on a ukulele. Everything becomes happy and bouncy. So that was my first experience really pulling that out of me.”

Hmm. Allan is touring with Sheryl Crow and writing on a ukulele? What’s next, a tour with ukulele maestro Jack Johnson?

He laughed, “If it works out, that would be great. I love his music, too.”

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