January 5, 2009
Country music history is littered with stormy relationships. Hank and Audrey. George and Tammy. Tim McGraw and Curb Records. With the seventh (!) single from his 2007 album, Let It Go, Curb is milking the platinum set for all its worth with this harsh rebuke of alcoholism, well-sung by McGraw, but also very much in the vein of “Live Like You Were Dying.”
As a friend of the story’s failed hero, McGraw warns the man that swerving in and out of sobriety is a recipe for disaster. When McGraw moves into the chorus with the lines, “You’d give your last breath to your wife, take a bullet for your kids/Lay your life down for your country, for your Jesus, for your friends,” he has, in one fell swoop, struck a nerve with those that value children, soldiers and heaven. Clever country music marketing.
McGraw then tells him that these blessings all trump alcohol in the grand scheme of things, and that he should get right back on track before losing his life. But the heavy drinker doesn’t warrant much sympathy (his workaholic nature is the only given excuse for his depression), and, even with a convincing vocal from one of Nashville’s greatest songpickers, we never reach the real heart of this sad tale.
Ultimately, “Nothin’ to Die For” is carefully constructed to spotlight that first couplet of the chorus, a reminder of life’s little treasures. This master technique, a gelling of familiar themes into a short series of lyrics, is the format’s calling card of late. As Honest Abe said, “You can fool some of the people all of the time….”. The heartwarming message overwhelms the tale of a truly tragic character who’s succumbing slowly to the call of the bottle.
Written by Lee Thomas Miller and Craig Wiseman
Listen: Nothin’ to Die For
Buy: Nothin’ to Die For