“Funny the things you thought you’d never miss,” Tim McGraw sings on his simple, nostalgic new single, “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s.”
He’s talking about all the little details of family life that can seem irrelevant, or even irritating, like dad watching a game of the tube with a cigarette in one hand and whiskey in the other. But I couldn’t help thinking of McGraw himself, an artist that I never thought I’d miss because I didn’t expect him to go away.
“Meanwhile Back at Mama’s” is an excellently written song, and McGraw delivers it in his straightforward way that doesn’t get in the way of the song. We don’t get both of those much anymore from McGraw. Getting even one has been cause for celebration recently.
Harmonizing with Faith Hill, they still sound like a married couple. But a much older one, not newly in love like they were on their starry-eyed early collaborations. They sound so natural together, and the production makes it sound like the entire song was surreptitiously recorded during a back porch guitar pull.
For the first time, the both of them seem like they’re less interested in regaining the throne of mainstream country music and are choosing instead to embrace being elder statesmen of country music. That’s what we really need from them. I hope this is their new way forward.
Written by Tom Douglas, Jaren Johnston, and Jeffrey Steele
More importantly, I don’t get it and the song isn’t interesting enough to make me want to get it.
“The Cowboy in Me” might be an amoebic form of the country lifestyle anthems that have flooded the genre in the years since it was released. It’s certainly subtler and more refined than what’s come out since, and McGraw’s hit doesn’t include the head-pounding loudness that sinks so many other “country” anthems.
But it’s like they wanted to write a song about having a short temper and being restless, and they couldn’t come up with a more interesting way to do it, so they use the cowboy archetype as a shorthand reference. This despite the fact that you could replace “cowboy” with “Jersey Shore” and it would still work, so what’s so cowboy about it, anyway?
commenter made a strong case that “Grown Men Don’t Cry” was a defining moment in the suburbanization of the genre and its growing disconnect from the life of the working poor. “The Cowboy in Me” came along well after the ampersand and the Western were dropped from Country Music, but it really does demonstrate that the genre has as much relevance to cowboys these days as a Marlboro ad.
Written by Al Anderson, Jeffrey Steele, and Craig Wiseman
A less cheery discussion tonight, just because I read something that annoyed me. Here’s an article about songwriter Jeffrey Steele:
NASHVILLE (Billboard) – One could forgive Jeffrey Steele if he had an inferiority complex.
The writer of scores of hits, Steele is cursed with the same affliction that troubles songwriters worldwide: The public knows his songs, but not him. It comes with the territory, even for someone who has twice been named songwriter of the year by performing rights group BMI.
Artists ranging from Faith Hill to Rascal Flatts to Tim McGraw and Trace Adkins have topped the charts with Steele’s compositions, but as a solo artist the best he could do was a No. 33 finish on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs with “Somethin’ in the Water” in 2001.
“They were saying I was too rock’n’roll for country, blah, blah, blah,” Steele says. “I could never fit into that mold of being a traditional country artist.”
But Steele is doing just fine, thank you, and starting to draw attention. Along with Craig Wiseman, Bob DiPiero and Tony Mullins, he starred in the GAC reality show “The Hitmen of Music Row” in 2007. And after a Best Buy representative saw Steele last summer as a judge/mentor on NBC’s “Nashville Star,” the electronics retailer contacted him about selling his product in its stores. “I’ve been knocking on it all my life, but that show opened the door to finally get some product out there,” Steele says.
What’s annoying about this? Lazy journalism. Rather than buy into the “songwriter in the shadows” myth that Steele is selling here, the writer should’ve pointed out that Jeffrey Steele had several hits as an artist. He was the lead singer of Boy Howdy, who had three hits in the mid-nineties, including the top five “She’d Give Anything” and “They Don’t Make ‘Em Like That Anymore.” His first hits as a songwriter were sung by him!
I don’t blame Steele for pushing that angle, but a more conscientious writer would’ve been aware of the ruse and called him on it. I haven’t forgotten “Bigger Fish to Fry”, Mr. Steele. Your Howdywood days will follow you until the end.