“Diamond Rings and Old Barstools”
Tim McGraw with Catherine Dunn
Written by Barry Dean, Luke Laird, and Jonathan Singleton
Tim McGraw should be applauded for finally meeting the potential that many of us had hoped for after he left the oppressive Curb Records. His most recent album, particularly his last couple singles, have dialed back the loudness, embraced a more traditional and organic sound, reconnected him with the warm vocals with which he had all but lost, and the last two singles have even presented more thoughtful lyrics than he’d been singing in the last few years.
“Diamond Rings and Old Barstools”, with standout background vocals by his cousin, Catherine Dunn, is the third single in a row with a production that is worthy to be called country music. Moreover, McGraw’s vocals are strong, sincere and devoid of obvious studio effects.
The thing that is missing from this winning combination, however, is a clear understanding of the metaphors that this song is trying to convey. It is apparent that the lyrics are stating that diamond rings and barstools don’t mix, much like the relationship in question, but the metaphor is clunky and requires a lot of guessing and second guessing in order to extrapolate the intended comparisons. What it seems to come down to is that one of these things is not like the other, but how exactly it’s not like the other is unclear.