Entertainment Weekly - 11/5/99, p.83
"...a bigger more polished sound - and a new persona as a mysterious loner cowboy....Allan brings a quiet brilliance to this mostly left-field program..." - Rating: A-
Personnel: Gary Allan (vocals); Jake Kelly (acoustic & electric guitars);
Dan Dugmore (acoustic & steel guitars); John Willis (acoustic guitar); Brent Rowan, Steve Gibson (electric guitar); Hank Singer (fiddle); Steve Nathan (piano, keyboards); Michael Rhodes (bass); Chad Cromwell (drums); Curtis Young, Bergen White, Lisa Cochran, Christy Cornelius, Brice Long, Randy Hardison, Marilyn Martin, John Wesley Ryles, Lisa Silver, Wynn Varble, Harry Stinson (background vocals); The Nashville String Machine.
With his excellent third album, SMOKE RINGS IN THE DARK, Gary Allan found his artistic voice, one filled with torch and twang. Allan's always been true to the traditional country sounds of Buck and Merle, but SMOKE RINGS finds him channeling Roy Orbison too, as well as the atmospheric feel of Chris Isaak's early records. The production on the CD is just outstanding, whether it's the barroom piano on "Cowboy Blues," the gorgeous strings on "Cryin' for Nothing" or the low, twangy guitar that permeates nearly every song, especially the moody title track. And Allan's voice has never sounded better--it's right up front, gritty and packed with emotion. There's not a bad track on the CD, but some standouts include "Sorry," (which sounds like the best song the Stray Cats never recorded), the melodic "Right Where I Need to Be," and the intense "Lovin' You Against My Will." In addition, Allan makes the harder country songs, like "I'm the One," sound so authentic that you'll be checking the CD booklet to make sure they really weren't written in the '50s. With its retro-modern feel, SMOKE RINGS sounds just as cool as Allan looks in that pinstripe suit on the album cover.