One thing about rock music that some people forget is that it is an amalgamation of different genres including such as country and blues. For music artists who know this, they have the potential to bridge the past and present by bringing the roots of rock music to a contemporary sound. This is the case with psychedelic folk and classic rock singer Gary Edward Allen and his new single “Final Surprise”.
“Final Surprise” YouTube and Spotify
A steady drum beat, chill guitar riffs and Allen’s equally relaxing vocals open the song. Both have a contemplative rock vibe that is strongly reminiscent of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers. This is further enhanced by the song’s introspective lyrics which considers how things have changed since the singer last saw someone,
“Left me empty as a shell With nothing left to give… Broken yet unburied….
“….but I’m sure it’s good to be home again”
Funny how things always change
On a nickel or a dime
Took your turn at being weak To be the one with only time …
…left to pay”
Of the song’s inspirations, Allen states, “I wrote ‘Final Surprise’ in the spring of 2019. The opening line ‘left me empty as a shell, with nothing left to give, broken yet unburied, but I’m sure it’s good to be home again….’ is almost being a bit cheeky in the face of a funeral. It’s about standing with someone and feeling helpless while they fall into the abyss.”
The song’s theme of helplessness in the face of someone struggling with their personal pain is another similarity that Allen and Tom Petty share. Yet a notable difference is that Allen’s song hopes that the person struggling with their pain will eventually overcome it. The guitar solo just before the last verse of the song heightens this newfound hope.
Production wise, Allen says that the guitar solo was very intentional. “The guitar solo I’m very proud of. It’s not like I’m a shredder, I keep it as melodic as possible, but I doubled each lick so it has a nice stereo feel. Lead guitar is my favorite thing to be doing, so it’s just fun for me.”
Allen started playing guitar at seven years old before falling in love with it as a teenager after listening to Queen and KISS. After a brief stint in a music class, he taught himself different guitar playing styles using his love of different music genres. By his early 20s, he gradually overcame his performance shyness by playing live in Ottawa at various clubs.
After moving to Vancouver in the mid 90s, Allen took a hiatus from performing live, but never stopped playing the guitar and singing. When Allen entered his 40s, he decided to return to performing music after meeting indie artist Robb Hill. Not long afterwards, he would record his first songs with producer Doug Fury before meeting AJ Ottaway and Jean Dean and recording their debut album Ottaway Broder Allen. This would lead to a local tour in Vancouver as well as a second album, Invictus, that was made and released in 2015.
Sometime after Allen moved from Ottawa to Toronto and met his partner Tara (also from Ottawa, but as fate would have it, they didn’t meet while in the city), the band called it quits. By 2017, Allen would become a solo artist that collaborated with his former bandmate AJ mixing new songs and recording with producer Tim Bovaconti. “Final Surprise” is the newest in a string of singles that include “Make It Happen” and “The Precious Ones.”