Music

Tim McGraw: Let It Go

Tim McGraw makes his bid to be mentioned right alongside some of the greatest country artists of all time.


Tim McGraw

Let It Go

Label: Curb
US Release Date: 2007-03-27
UK Release Date: 2007-03-26
Amazon
iTunes

The first thing Tim McGraw proves on his latest album is that he really is the best male singer in country music, and probably one of the best singers of any kind in the U.S. right now. His voice just gains depth with every release, and he is able to put over any kind of mood he wants: heartbreak, outrage, lust, danger, fervor, Zen-like calm, the whole spectrum of country music.

The second thing he proves is that the best maneuver he ever made is to ditch all the fancy Nashville studio pros and record with his touring band, the Dancehall Doctors. This crack outfit more than keeps up with McGraw as he skips blithely through genres and moods; Darran Smith and Denny Hemingson do some filthy outlaw-country guitar playing on the rocked-out Warren Brothers-penned revenge tale "Between the River and Me", and the group manages to convincingly ape the Big & Rich vibe on the Big Kenny-penned first single "Last Dollar (Fly Away)". Not that it's so great a song, because it's not -- the messages are all mixed up, the metaphors go awry about halfway through the first verse, and McGraw never seems to get a handle on the material. But it still sounds like a great single, due to the whip-smart playing of the Dancehall Doctors. Nice save, boys.

The third thing McGraw proves here, though, is that he is only as strong as his material. Fortunately, most of the songs here are great. The earnest blue-collar love song "I'm Workin'" seems tailor-made for him -- lo and behold, it's written by two of the smartest people in the business, Lori McKenna and Darrell Scott. "Train #10" is another home run; its ambiguity and soul match up perfectly with all the emotional timbre McGraw can muster. (He takes a rare co-writing credit here together with those pesky Warren Brothers.) And one of the best pop-country pens in the business, Hillary Lindsay, contributes the sexy power ballad "Put Your Lovin' on Me", which McGraw brings home in high style.

But some of the stuff here is just "eh". Everyone works really hard on the over-amped don't-drive-drunk anthem "Nothin' to Die For", but that can't mask the fact that it's just not that interesting. "I Need You" is a wonderful song with some biting lyrics; "I need you like a needle needs a vein / I need you like my uncle Joe in Oklahoma needs the rain" is a beautiful scary couplet. But the idea to make it a duet with Faith Hill sinks this Titanic before it even gets out of the dock, because Hill just sounds silly singing about needles and veins. I'm no Hill-hater -- I was rooting for her all the way here. But she just can't pull it off, although she fares much better providing lovely backup harmony on the closing "Shotgun Rider".

But the main thing McGraw proves here is that he is an artist to be seriously reckoned with. He's been knocking on this door for a number of years -- covering "No Woman No Cry" in concert, duetting with Nelly, even holding his own as an actor in last year's Flicka. (Hell, one of the best country songs of the decade is Taylor Swift's "Tim McGraw".) But this record is his biggest statement, and it is written in capital letters. There are moments of true transcendence here, from the whiskey-soaked westernisms of "Kristofferson" to the rocked-up outlaw motifs of the title song. Sure, not every track is a winner -- but you have to admire the gusto and the ambition that went into this record, along with the effortless skill of the musicians involved.

We ain't in "Indian Outlaw" territory anymore, y'all; Tim McGraw is making a bid to be mentioned right alongside some of the greatest country artists of all time. Another couple albums like this and he's in like Flynn.

8

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image