Tim McGraw – Damn Country Music
McGraw’s latest album seems to have found universal appeal with fans and critics alike garnering widespread praise for the strength of the songs and claims it re-introduces the singer’s love for stone-cold country classics.
“When I recorded the track Damn Country Music, it was one of those electric moments,” McGraw says of the title track. “It speaks to a passion and being at a crossroads in your life when you make that decision to pursue it knowing you might pay a heavy price.”
“I’m always being influenced by everything. I’m always being influenced by things that my daughters [Gracie, Maggie and Audrey] hear, things that my wife [Faith Hill] listens to, things that I hear on TV and things that I hear on the radio. And then I also get influenced by things that I haven’t heard in years and years. I’ll put a Keith Whitley record on, and go, “My God, how good was that?” So, there’s some of that on this record. I think it’s sort of an all-encompassing influence of the kind of music I like to make.”
The beginning of the album evokes memories of Sundown Heaven Town. Rambling drum loops and understated lyrics underpin early tracks like ‘Here Tonight,’ ‘Losin’ You’ and ‘How I’ll Always Be’ – as good as it gets on Damn Country Music.
I’ll always be a fan of old stray dogs and guitars praying / One-room churches, back road walks and front porch-swingin’ / Sunset skies, bonfire nights, I love the simple things / That’s how I’ll always be
Contemporary sounds infiltrate tracks like ‘Love Runs,’ but raw and sparser arrangements envelop the title track and especially ‘Don’t Make Me Feel at Home’ and they are stand outs.
‘Don’t Make Me Feel at Home’ is this album’s ‘Red Ragtop,’ a song that will no doubt rub a certain group of people wrong. The ballad is a story of a man preparing to cheat on his wife. Who he’s with is open for debate, and an argument could certainly be made he’s with a prostitute. The magic trick McGraw pulls is bringing real sympathy to this character. It’s a song that would stand out in any decade of his career.
The first single, ‘Top of the World,’ got an otherworldly send-off last year when McGraw introduced it by beaming the tune to the astronauts aboard the International Space Station. The well-travelled tune soon hit Top 30 at country radio.
Also of note are ‘California,’ which includes country hitmakers Big & Rich, and ‘Here Tonight,’ the LP’s opener which features an appearance from McGraw’s oldest daughter, Gracie, and he still seems bemused about how that happened!
“I was scared to ask her. I was. I didn’t plan on it; I was just making the record. I certainly didn’t plan on having her sing on it or anything. I was doing this song, and as I was doing the vocal on it, I was thinking, “Man, I bet Gracie’s vocal would sound really cool on this.” I just knew the way she sang, because she’s my daughter, and I know how she sings.
“She had such an energy. If you’re in a room and Gracie walks in, you know she’s there before you ever turn around. She just has this energy about her when she walks into a place. And when she sings, it’s the same way. Every time I’d go home at night after being in the studio, I’d just hear her voice on this record.”
McGraw says the album’s closer, ‘Humble and Kind’ needed to wait. The singer says he’s had the Lori McKenna-penned ballad for years, but it wouldn’t have sounded so true on any other album. The orchestral performance is stunning, and the song will be deservedly included with the best of his career.
McGraw’s message satisfies like a good chicken dinner. Simply put, it’s Damn Country Music‘s ‘Meanwhile Back at Mama’s.’ Every line includes another gem of wisdom, but as a whole the song never feels preachy. At times one senses that McGraw is imparting advice he wishes someone gave to him. Worry, regret and unbridled love are among the emotions you’ll feel listening.
…continued in Country Update Issue 80