Tough All Over

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After the unimaginable tragedy of his wife's suicide nearly a year ago, Gary had two choices for how to address the topic in his music: confront it head-on or pretend it didn't happen. One listen to Gary's harrowing sixth album and you'll know which option he chose.

Tough All Over is a guided tour of its creator's pain, one of the bravest and most stunningly intimate mainstream country albums ever made. Practically every song centers on the loss of a loved one, although several—like the first single, a cover of rock band Vertical Horizon's "Best I Ever Had"—couch that loss in terms of a breakup, not a death. The theme remains the same: a lonely man rebuilding a shattered future.

Tough All Over isn't the soundtrack for your next party or barbecue. It demands to be listened to carefully and thoughtfully, although its very darkness can make that difficult at times. There are, thankfully, a few glimmers of hope—if "I Just Got Back From Hell" doesn't initially seem like the cheeriest number, at least it declares that he's back from hell. May he leave it far behind.

—Chris Neal

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