Friday, August 10th, 2012
2001 | #1
I will append a “-” onto the grade as a means of acknowledging the fact that the Bruce Robison original is overall superior. That said, Tim McGraw’s hit recording of “Angry All the
Time” is an excellent record in its own right.
I’m sure there are relatively few artists who would have listened to Robison’s non-charting, self-written 1998 single and thought, ‘Hey, that sounds like a hit!’ But “Angry All the Time” was a classic instance of McGraw finding a hit in the most unlikely of places, and giving mass exposure to an achingly beautiful, yet underrated composition.
Though not quite a raw as Robison’s original recording, McGraw’s version is surprisingly light on bells and whistles. Beginning with the sound of hushed acoustic strumming, the arrangement picks up force as the song progresses, but the focus of attention remains the story of a marriage gradually unraveling. Varying emotions are conveyed, including frustration, desperation, and disillusionment, particularly in stinging lines such as “What I can’t live with is memories of the way you used to be.”
It all comes through in McGraw’s evocative performance, showcasing the layers of subtlety his voice had picked up in the years since his “Indian Outlaw” days, while wife Faith Hill’s plaintive background vocals add a further layer of pathos. The couple injects an angst into the lines “God, it hurts me to think of you, for the light in your eyes was gone/ Sometimes I don’t know why this old world can’t leave well enough alone” that is heartrending. It’s a top-notch performance by a pair of contemporary country music’s most vibrant talents.
In the late nineties and early 2000s, Tim McGraw was known as one of country music’s finest selectors of song material, as well as one of its finest interpreters of lyrics. Great records like this are the reason for it.
Written by Bruce Robison
Next: The Cowboy In Me
Previous: Grown Men Don’t Cry
Monday, August 6th, 2012
This is one of Tim McGraw’s most polarizing singles, with perhaps more falling down on the “hate it” than the “love it” side of things.
I love it. I really do. Part of that love is from a combination of the vivid imagery and McGraw’s plaintive vocal performance.
But a much bigger part comes from the second verse where the narrator dreams about his father. Their relationship is idyllic in his subconscious but was distant and cold in reality. That verse is so well-crafted, and McGraw delivers it so masterfully that it always surprises me, no matter how many times I hear it. It’s amazing to see how far he came from “Don’t Take the Girl”, where you can hear the tragedy coming from three verses away, so dripped is his voice in cloying sentimentality.
I get why some people aren’t crazy about this one. It is, after all, about a guy who cries in a supermarket parking lot, and then at a grave site, and then after tucking his little girls into bed. But I guess that instead of coming off as wimpy or sappy to me, it feels more like a guy who didn’t come from a loving home feeling the pain of the little boy and his mother, and later feeling deep appreciation for his own love being reflected in his little girl’s “I love you, Dad.”
After all , there aren’t that many folks out there who get the perfect childhood and then go on to provide it to their children. Even those who have never known a broken home have usually known a few shattered windows. “Grown Men Don’t Cry” makes its fair share of eyes roll upward, but quite a few of those eyes prove the title wrong because it hits so close to home.
Written by Tom Douglas and Steve Seskin
Next: Angry all the Time
Previous: Let’s Make Love (with Faith Hill)
Thursday, July 26th, 2012
An awkward attempt to recreate the magic of “It’s Your Love.”
Awkward in the sense that the melody doesn’t have quite the same pull, and in the sense that, well…it’s a song called “Let’s Make Love,” performed in earnest by a real-life married couple. And as fantastic as Hill and McGraw sound together, it’s hard not to feel a little voyeuristic when they sigh, “I want to feel you in my soul!” It’s just hard.
Still, the record is not canada online pharmacy propecia without its – ahem - adult-contemporary charms. Really, it’s worth it just for the weirdly engrossing “Look how hot we are!” music video. But it’s the kind of thing you probably wouldn’t want to listen to/watch with anyone else in the room. Unless maybe, I guess, if they were in the room with you because, like…y’know.
Written by Marv Green, Aimee Mayo, Chris Lindsey & Bill Luther
Next: Grown Men Don’t Cry
Previous: My Next Thirty Years
Monday, July 23rd, 2012
He started out as one of the lesser-ran hat acts of the nineties boom, catapulted to fame on the strength of a novelty song. But skillful song selection and deepening commitment to artistry helped Tim McGraw emerge as one of the genre’s strongest talents.
Born and raised in Louisiana, Tim McGraw was the son of baseball legend Tug McGraw, though he didn’t know this until he was an older boy. He was an aspiring baseball player himself, and attended college on a sports scholarship. While there, he learned to play guitar and grew more interested in pursuing music as his full-time career.
McGraw was inspired by the music of Keith Whitley, and by chance, he moved to Nashville on the same day that Whitley passed away. He played the clubs around town for four years, eventually garnering the interest of Curb Records. His self-titled debut album was released in 1993 to little fanfare, so it was a big surprise the following year when his second album, Not a Moment Too Soon, spent nearly thirty weeks at #1. It was the controversial novelty hit “Indian Outlaw” that got it there, but four more hits from the same set kept it at the top.
McGraw’s sudden move to multi-platinum sales gave him access to far better material, and over the next decade, a string of hit albums would establish him as one of Nashville’s best pickers of material. In 1996, he married fellow superstar Faith Hill, and they spent six weeks at #1 with “It’s Your Love”, their award-winning duet that was only one of many hit collaborations between the two. In the late nineties, he dominated radio with several multi-week #1 singles, becoming the genre’s flagship male vocalist and one of the few to win two consecutive CMA Album of the Year awards.
His success continued into the 21st century, and while McGraw became a movie star on the side, he still kept his primary focus on the music. In 2004, “Live Like You Were Dying” became the biggest hit of his career, earning him a Grammy and spending 7 weeks at #1, his cost viagra longest-running stay on the top of the charts. After the album of the same name sold in the millions, his record sales began to cool, though disagreements with his label heated up. He still had regular hits on the radio, but for the first time, he also had several singles missing the top ten.
McGraw finished his commitment to Curb records in early 2012, and has now moved on to Big Machine records, releasing his first single for the label in the summer of 2012. He is currently on a successful stadium tour with Kenny Chesney, an artist that he influenced and mentored.
- Indian Outlaw, 1994
- Don’t Take the Girl, 1994
- I Like it, I Love it, 1995
- It’s Your Love (with Faith Hill), 1997
- Just to See You Smile, 1998
- Please Remember Me, 1999
- Live Like You Were Dying, 2004
- Not a Moment Too Soon, 1994
- Everywhere, 1997
- A Place in the Sun, 1999
- Set This Circus Down, 2001
- Live Like You Were Dying, 2004
Next: #44. Glen Campbell
Previous: #46. Dwight Yoakam
Sunday, July 8th, 2012
First as a songwriter, then as a new country superstar, and currently as an alternative country icon, Rodney Crowell has made an indelible mark on country music for nearly four decades.
Born and raised in Houston, Texas, he was already a bandleader in high school, heading up a teenage outfit called the Arbitrators. He was only 22 when he moved to Nashville, and by 1975, he’d been discovered by Jerry Reed, who heard him doing an acoustic set. Reed not only recorded one of his songs, but also signed him to his publishing company.
Crowell was soon a member of Emmylou Harris’ Hot Band, and she was the first to record some of his compositions that went on to be big hits for other artists, including: “I Ain’t Living Long Like This”, a #1 hit for Waylon Jennings; “‘Til I Gain Control Again”, a #1 hit for Crystal Gayle; “Leavin’ Louisiana in the Broad Daylight”, a #1 hit for the Oak Ridge Boys; and “Ashes By Now”, a top five hit for Lee Ann Womack.
His remarkable songwriting talent led to a record deal with Warner Bros. While a trio of albums for the label were critically acclaimed, they failed to earn him success on the radio or at retail. But as would be the case for his entire career, other artists mined those records for hits. Most notably, “Shame on the Moon” became a #2 pop hit for Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band.
Crowell took a break from his solo career to focus on his songwriting and production responsibilities for then-wife Rosanne Cash. This would be yet another successful avenue for Crowell, as his work with Cash produced several #1 singles and three gold albums. The relationship also helped set his solo career on fire. After signing with Cash’s label Columbia, his second set for the project was previewed with a duet with Cash, “It’s Such a Small World.”
It became the first of five consecutive #1 singles from Diamonds & Dirt, a gold-selling disc that briefly made Crowell an A-list country star, as five additional Cash singles that he had produced also hit #1 over the same time period. He received a Grammy award for Best Country Song for “After All This Time.” Two foll0w-up albums for Columbia also produced a handful of hits, with his final mainstream success being the pop crossover hit, “What Kind of Love.”
In the nineties, Crowell recorded two albums for MCA which were well-reviewed, but most notable for the second set including “Please Remember Me.” It stalled as a single when Crowell released it, but later that decade, Tim McGraw’s cover topped the charts for five weeks and earned Crowell a slew of award nominations.
The new century brought a reinvention on Crowell’s part, as he repositioned himself as an Americana artist with remarkable success. A trio of albums earned rave reviews, as did his collaboration with old friends like Vince Gill on The Notorious Cherry Bombs, which earned a handful of Grammy nominations and included Crowell’s “Making Memories of Us.” Once again, a current artist discovered it, and Keith Urban took it to #1 for several weeks.
Inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2003, Crowell continues to build on his legacy as a singer, songwriter, and producer. Most recently, Crowell produced Chely Wright’s confessional Lifted off the Ground and co-wrote an album with friend Mary Karr which features their songs recorded by several artists, including Crowell himself.
- I Ain’t Living Long Like This (Waylon Jennings), 1980
- ‘Til I Gain Control Again (Crystal Gayle), 1982
- Shame on the Moon (Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band), 1982
- It’s Such a Small World (with Rosanne Cash), 1988
- I Couldn’t Leave You if I Tried, 1988
- After All This Time, 1989
- What Kind of Love, 1992
- Please Remember Me (Tim McGraw), 1999
- Making Memories of Us (Keith Urban), 2005
- Ain’t Living Long Like This, 1978
- Diamonds & Dirt, 1988
- The Houston Kid, 2001
- Fate’s Right Hand, 2002
- The Outsider, 2005
Next: #46. Dwight Yoakam
Previous: #48. Kris Kristofferson
Wednesday, July 4th, 2012
Age forty is still seen as more of a milestone, but age thirty might be the best place to neatly divide your life.
McGraw captures that feeling of settling in to who you're going to be, and the growing confidence that you're really an adult and that you've somewhat established yourself.
Suddenly, you look back on the ridiculous things you've done in your twenties with amusement and appreciation, like you're looking back on a different person who you're quite fond of but can no longer completely relate to. It's a moment in time when you've gathered your necessary life skills and still have enough energy to put them to use.
Who could be a better vehicle for this song than McGraw? He was 32 when he recorded it, and was enjoying unparalleled success at country radio, while also starting a family with fellow superstar Faith Hill. “My Next Thirty Years” was his twelfth #1 single in only seven years, and his seventh to spend four weeks or more at #1, a run absolutely unheard of in the modern era of country radio.
He sings with the confidence of a man on the top of his game, completely unaware of the fact that he'd one day sing “Truck Yeah.”
Written by Phil Vassar
Next: Let's Make Love (with Faith Hill)
Previous: Some Things Never Change
Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012
Really, Tim McGraw?
Really, Tim McGraw?
How is this not embarrassing?
So in case you didn't know, Tim McGraw and Curb Records' “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” has taken an interesting turn as of late, with old label Curb and new label Big Machine releasing dueling Tim McGraw singles to country radio. Curb has put out a second single from Emotional Traffic - “Right Back Atcha Babe” (groan) – while Big Machine has released “Truck Yeah,” the first single from McGraw's forthcoming label debut album.
I've written it before, and I'll write it again: A snappy catchphrase does not a great single make. Half the time it doesn't even make a halfway good or decent single, and it can be downright embarrassing at worst. So “truck” rhymes with… you know. Congratulations to the songwriters on having come to such a grand realization, but that still begs the question of why the world needs to hear a three and a half-minute song built around it.
Some songs that are built around puns or catchphrases sound somewhat clever at first, only to gradually lose their appeal, and quickly become intolerable. This is not one of them, for it sounds dumb and ridiculous upon arrival. It starts with “Got Li'l Wayne poppin' on my iPod,” and then it's all downhill from there.
If this is at all representative of the musical direction McGraw plans to take with Curb Records, then it's probably past time I started calling myself a “former” Tim McGraw fan. This is it, folks – He's finally gone off the deep end.
Written by Preston Brust, Chris Janson, Chris Lucas, and Danny Myrick
Listen: Truck Yeah
Sunday, June 10th, 2012
McGraw at his most listless. “Some Things Never Change” is an easy listening number that's so easy to listen to, it might put you to sleep.
It goes nowhere lyrically or melodically, and there isn't a drum beat or steel guitar hook around to save it.
Written by Walt Aldridge and Brad Crisler
Next: My Next Thirty Years
Previous: My Best Friend
Wednesday, May 16th, 2012
1999 | #1
Some songs live or die on the strength of the artist's vocal interpretation. Tim McGraw's “My Best Friend” could be considered one such song.
The funny thing is that's not necessarily an indication of poor songwriting. Sometimes it just takes the right vocalist to find the layers of emotion woven into a lyric that could scan as pedestrian in the hands of another performer. In this instance, Tim McGraw indeed proves to be the right vocalist.
Lyrics like “I don't know where I'd be/ Without you here with me/ Life with you makes perfect sense” could very easily come across as rote statements with no real emotional heft. When Tim McGraw delivers them, you get the sense that he means it from the depths of his soul.
McGraw's heartfelt performance is bolstered by a pleasant lilting melody and a laid-back arrangement featuring generous amounts of fiddle and steel guitar. Thanks to such fitting treatment, the song exudes such an irresistible warmth that it's easy to see why it's become a dance floor favorite in the twelve years since its release.
Written by Bill Luther and Aimee Mayo
Next: Some Things Never Change
Previous: Something Like That
Wednesday, April 18th, 2012
1999 | #1
You know what's one of the best ways for a contemporary country song to worm its way into my heart? To display a mature and insightful perspective, or to tap into some universal truth, while dressing itself up with the catchiest of melodies and hooks.
That particular sweet spot is one that the female artists in country music tend to hit more often than the males – See “Deep Down,” “Hey Cinderella,” and “The Fear of Being Alone” for case studies. However, Tim McGraw's 1999 chart-topper “Something Like That” hits it, and hits it dead-on.
The song recounts the narrator's youthful experience of falling in love for the very first time at age seventeen. The verses are replete with little details – a barbecue stain, a miniskirt, a suntan line, etc. Such details may seem to have little meaning, but in this particular context, they mean everything. In the second verse, the narrator has a chance encounter with his old flame while traveling on a plane, where she says “I bet you don't remember me, to which he replies “Only every other memory,” thus assuring her that she is hardly forgotten. “Like an old photograph, time can make a feeling fade,” he sings during the bridge, “but the memory of a first love never fades away.”
Through its vivid, detail-laden approach, the lyric effectively hones in on the fact that the experience of one's first love is, in itself, unforgettable. Every little aspect of the encounter feels significant in its own way, because it's a lifetime milestone that leaves a lasting impression. Indeed, “a heart don't forget something like that.”
The point is driven home by a sprightly piano hook, toe-tapping rhythm, and wildly catchy singalong-friendly chorus – a one-two punch that helps the record make an impression both as a great lyric and as a fun, catchy listen.
Witty, timeless, and hugely entertaining.
Written by Rick Ferrell and Keith Follesé
Next: My Best Friend
Previous: Please Remember Me