Signed to Decca Records in 1996, Allan made his country music debut with the release of his single "Her Man", the lead-off to his gold-certified debut album Used Heart for Sale, which was released in 1996 on Decca.

His second album, It Would Be You, followed in 1998.

Used Heart for Sale appeared that year, and even if it was a bit timid, the album established Allan as a talented performer with plenty of potential. This time out, Allan suffered from slick Nashville production, which winnowed away most of his whiskey-soaked barroom charm. The album combined most of what Allan did best -- dusty honky tonk, cracked country ballads -- into a solid effort that didn't get too heavy with the Music City sheen.

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Read More It may seem like it's always glitz and glam for country music's biggest stars, but they didn't all come by their storytelling ability naturally.

Sadly, many singers have encountered great tragedies in their lives, or have overcome sharp odds to get where they are today.

Gary Allan has been hard at work on a new album, but it hasn't been a cakewalk.

During a stop at the Taste of Country Nights studio, Allan revealed the "hardest thing" about recording a collection of music.

Gary Allan hit the honky tonk circuit in his native Southern California at the seasoned age of 12.

Playing in and out of the smoky, sweaty bars with his dad's band led Allan to follow in his father's footsteps and start his own band.

With 2001's Alright Guy, an accomplished mix of driving, dusty swagger and slow-burn croon, Allan proved that he was only getting better with age.

Its single, "Man to Man," became the singer's first number one hit.

When Allan returned to those same honky tonks with his own combo, the sound was true Bakersfield country: Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, and the rest.

Allan spent most of his twenties honing his skills as a new traditionalist country singer; finally, in 1996, he was picked up by the Decca label. Allan's contract was picked up by MCA, which released his Smoke Rings in the Dark later that year.

Gary Allan possesses one of the most distinctive male voices in country music, and he has used it to record some of the most varied hits of any male artist of his generation.