“It Ain’t the Whiskey” by Gary Allan

Grade: A
photo by Eric Adkins/UMG Nashville

From the opening drone of a church organ, and Gary Allan setting the scene very plainly at an AA meeting, you can tell this third single from Gary’s Set You Free isn’t going to be a sunshine-and-daydreams country song.

No, there is some serious hurt in “It Ain’t the Whiskey,” as the narrator stands in the middle of the church of the broken people, listening to the walking wounded tell their stories, and defiantly spills his guts. But he’s not blaming the bottle, his cigarettes or—gasp!—the stuff I smoke for his torment. It’s that unbeatable demon of a lost love. 

Yet for all of the intrinsic sadness of the lyrics (Gary didn’t write them, but he spits them out like he’s endured every word) and the hypnotic production, the song doesn’t plod or bore. Rather, it captivates.

Its gnawing guitar solo and crying steel provide an air of suspense until “Whiskey” reaches its tipping point, the kind of cathartic crescendo at which Gary excels. It’s 12 steps toward redemption in a little over three minutes. 

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