As far as the Everywhere hits are concerned, this sixth and final single is the most frothy and least substantial.
That’s not to say it isn’t an entertaining listen, and in a way, it might be the most historically significant of the singles, given that it’s the blueprint for countless Kenny Chesney hits that followed.
Written by Steve Mandile, Jerry Vandiver, and Phil Vassar
Getting tired of the outstanding Tim McGraw reviews?
Then go read about Emotional Traffic. Fact is, Everywhere-era McGraw was as close to perfection as radio-friendly country music gets.
“Where the Green Grass Grows” is tightly produced, with an instantly recognizable opening fiddle. The urban burdens and backporch fantasies aren’t just cleverly constructed. They’re also brilliantly contrasted.
My personal favorite? Comparing the idyllic corn popping up in rows to the “supper from a sack – 99 cent heart attack.” But the entire song is chock full of imagery like that, funny and poignant and a little sad. All the stuff that great country music is supposed to be.
What on earth is a tumee, and why is Tim McGraw trying to pull it?
That was but one of the questions that my younger self had about “One of These Days.” It hit the radio during my freshman year in college. As a transplanted New Yorker studying in Tennessee, I couldn’t understand why my friends were flipping out about how powerful this song was.
I got the hype through the first and second verse, but it lost me in the third act. I actually thought he was getting married. After a few years down south, my Catholic self gradually learned the meaning of this very Baptist song. If this was my life story, I would’ve just gone to confession after these personal failings.
I’ve never been one to make evaluative judgments on denominations and faiths other than my own. If somebody else is taking a different path to God, I hope they have a meaningful journey and that we meet up at a shared destination.
But I will say one thing. If you’re looking to close a three act song with a dramatic resolution, ”born again” is the way to go.
Written by Marcus Hummon, Monty Powell, and Kip Raines
If you had a friend who was a tightrope walker, and you were walking down a sidewalk, and he fell, that would be completely unacceptable. – Mitch Hedberg
Emotional Traffic is a collection of poor choices.
First and foremost, the material is shockingly weak. Yes, McGraw has been slowly slipping over the last couple of albums, but the bottom has completely fallen out here.
Take a song like “Right Back Atcha Babe”, for example. It’s a hodgepodge of little details in the same vein as “Something Like That,” but none of them are believable. And why are they having the conversation anyway? It’s not like they’ve suddenly run into each other after a really long time. Why is he recapping the events like he’s got to get her caught up before this week’s episode?
“One Part, Two Part” and “I Will Not Fall Down” are Nashville songwriting at its laziest. They’re not even songs so much as they’re song titles. It’s all packaging and no product.
The album is polluted with that bizarre inversion of modern country music: The less a song has to say, the longer it takes to say it. Songs go on forever on this album. The bloated opener, “Halo”, doesn’t contain a single intelligible moment, despite five minutes of trying. “Touchdown Jesus” is a ridiculous concept to begin with, and could’ve made its point in two minutes instead of four, had McGraw had the good taste to cover Bobby Bare’s “Dropkick Me, Jesus” instead.
Look, you know you’re in trouble when nine tracks in, it’s a relief to hear “Felt Good On My Lips.” Sure, the melody’s so blatantly derivative of “Video Killed the Radio Star” that it makes Lady Gaga sound fresh and original. But at least it has a pulse, even if I’m still bewildered by the Incredible Machinery of it all.
And to be fair, there are some decent moments scattered throughout, like “Better Than I Used to Be” and “Die By My Own Hand”, but it’s all ground that McGraw’s covered before, and better, too. They’re just not worth sitting through Emotional Traffic for.
Had I not committed to writing this review, I don’t know that I would’ve listened to this album at all, certainly not for a second and third time. This level of work from this level of talent is nothing short of completely unacceptable.
One Sunday afternoon you go about rummaging through your attic, looking for items to donate to a local rescue mission…..and suddenly you find yourself re-acquainted with a bedroom poster depicting your favorite artist growing up, lightly caked in dust. At that very moment you let out a bittersweet sigh, and fondly stare into space as you reminisce of an early flame that came and went in your life, while that artist contributes the soundtrack to your saudade.
Which brings us to “Springsteen”: the third single from Eric Church’s breakout album Chief and follow-up to his first-ever chart-topping single “Drink In My Hand”.
Predictably, the track is another in a growing line of songs that purposefully references the name of another established artist or hit song (such as “Tim McGraw” and “All Summer Long”) for the purpose of reminiscing on a treasured memory, and is also heavy on references to some of the most definitive hits of that artist’s career (i.e. “I’m On Fire”, “Born to Run”, “Glory Days”, “Born in the USA”). On the surface, it appears little worth examining.
I invite you to gaze a little deeper.
“Springsteen” is every bit as semi-melancholy as it is a fond glimpse back at the past, with a gravity of shimmering sadness driving its production that is most closely tied to the Boss’s 1987 tortured-heart testimonial “Tunnel of Love”. Steered by a drum machine, and besprinkled with misty-eyed synthesizers and chatoyant glints of keyboard, “Springsteen” is without question far-removed from decidedly country soundscapes, but more resembles the sound of one of the Boss’s lesser-known releases, “Tougher Than The Rest”, albeit softer around the edges.
Church also channels Springsteen’s spoken-word style of singing here, with an understated, pensive and reflective vocal delivery in the verses that leaves you believing he is re-evaluating his slate of memory as he is speaking. The first verse, which sets the scene in reminiscing on a now seemingly distant world “somewhere between that setting sun, ‘I’m on Fire’ and ‘Born to Run’”, poignantly ends with the last line: “I can still hear the sound of you sayin’ don’t go…”
After a decidedly carefree, warm first verse overall, this last line before the first chorus sets the stage to the remaining direction of the track. Church sings the first chorus as though, upon looking back on the amplitude of the memory and suddenly feeling the sting of saudade, he feels the impetus to belt off his chest exactly what he sees in his mind’s eye when he thinks of that former flame: a seventeen-year old self gazing at the stars on a July Saturday night.
The second verse begins with an equal sort of urgency, where he croons:
“I bumped into you by happenstance, you probably wouldn’t even know who I am, but if I whispered your name, I bet there’d still be a spark…”
He goes on to suggest that he used to be gasoline, admitting that those were the “glory days” and, thus, nothing he has experienced since then has quite compared to them. That doesn’t necessarily suggest or prove, straight up, that the protagonist is unhappy in the present by any stretch. But I do find it telling that he’d use the metaphor of “gasoline” within the second verse, as though he is admitting there’s a sort of vitality which that memory is teeming to the brim with that he has never quite been able to replicate……going so far as to wonder if, perhaps, there’s still time to give it another shot with her. That is, if she still thinks of him.
Does she still fondly regard him? There is slight reason to believe she does, as evinced in the coda, where Church’s propulsive “Whoa whoa, oh oh oh!” softly evokes a call-and-response effect, mimicked by an unknown female voice. Is the voice indeed that of his former lover? Or is it the murmuring of a muse? It could well be interpreted as either.
These emotionally ambiguous nuances, and the burst-of-sunlight-piercing-through-the-clouds production, are what elevate what could otherwise have been a paint-by-numbers ode to young love to a whole other level. You can practically imagine Church standing there outside her house on a Saturday night, holding onto the faintest hope she’s been watching him too as she’s dressed up in blue……….praying she’ll say yes to another dance. And you’re rooting for a happy ending, yet also feel a chill going up your spine fearing his effort will be met in vain: finding his star-crossed self pacing one step forward, two steps back.
“Springsteen” is a gorgeous, bittersweet anthem-to-be that will likely leave even some more hardened hearts simultaneously smile and cry listening. As Church’s best single to date, it will all but certainly take his career to the next level, even as he’s already selling out venues left and right at the dawn of his “Blood, Sweat & Beers” tour as we speak.
Come on, Eric. There’s no foolin’ us that you’re any more tougher than the rest of us, behind that brilliant discount shaded disguise. Lift them up from over your eyes and show us your tears. Atta boy, Chief!
Written by Eric Church, Jeff Hyde, and Ryan Tyndell
Smarter and more incisive than nearly everything else in heavy rotation back in the day.
McGraw plays his cards so close to his chest that upon first listen, you may only pick up on his unconditional love and selflessness toward the girl who’s been stringing him along for all these years.
But repeated plays bring more emotions to the surface, as his phrasing and delivery reveal a bit of contempt and a bit more resigned disbelief at her remarkable obliviousness of her own callous selfishness.
He may be willing to to anything just to see her smile, but the listeners would love to see that smile disappear.
The moment where Tim McGraw discovers subtlety and finds it suits him quite well.
“Everywhere” is the title track from the album that established McGraw as a credible artist, and its release was demanded by radio, which gave it considerably heavy airplay as an album cut.
The song tells the tale of a man who is haunted by the memory of the girl he’s left behind in his small town to chase his dreams of a life outside the narrow parameters that surrounded them.
McGraw’s understated delivery packs the song with such emotional heft that the unresolved sadness lingers after the song has ended. It’s a masterful performance that, along with its charming predecessor “It’s Your Love”, notes the beginning of McGraw’s golden era.
Flipping through an old country magazine, I read a review of Tim McGraw’s then-new album, Everywhere.
The journalist noted his surprise at the title track, which demonstrated more subtlety and gravitas than he’d previously thought McGraw was capable of.
That was so many years ago that it’s hard to remember that McGraw was something of a novelty singer back in the day, a step or two above Billy Ray Cyrus but not quite up there with Joe Diffie.
Fourteen years later, we’ve had so many thoughtful and compelling records from McGraw that when a new one comes along, it’s easy to take it for granted. Standing in the shadow of “Live Like You Were Dying” is a hard place to shine.
So while “Better Than it Used to Be” is classic McGraw and a welcome relief to hear after “Felt Good on My Lips”, it’s not quite in the league of his very best songs in the same vein, like “One of These Days” and “My Next Thirty Years.”
But I do have to publicly thank him for the clean, tasteful, and decidedly country production. Any record that doesn’t hurt my ears these days is greatly appreciated.
Tim McGraw and Faith Hill’s first studio collaboration is still one of their best (“one of” – “I Need You” is even better). I’ve never been a huge fan of power ballads, but I probably would be if they all sounded as great as this.
Lyrics like “It’s your love/ It just does something to me/ It sends a shock right through me/ I can’t even get enough” might come across as paint-by-number if given a simple by-the-book vocal treatment. But McGraw turns in a top-notch vocal performance – restrained in all the right places, but rising high when the time is appropriate. Thus, the lyrics do not ring vague at all, but instead are heard to spring from a deep place of sincerity. The song itself is good, but it’s the vocals that push the song to greatness.
In essence, Faith Hill does what is typically referred to as “singing background vocals,” but her contributions are prominent enough that her voice clearly comes across as that of the narrator’s lover. More importantly, the depth and color of their harmonies gave fans their first taste of the powerful chemistry that became the hallmark of the McGraw-Hill vocal pairing.
To quote Tara, who says it better than I could, “‘It’s Your Love’ represents the moment in country music history when we were introduced to one of its definitive couples.” Tim McGraw’s singles had been largely hit-or-miss up to this point, but as the precursor to one of his strongest studio albums, “It’s Your Love” announced that McGraw had found his mojo.
A sound sentiment stuffed in a sound-impaired package.
The generic “moody” 90′s production does some of the damage, as does a patchwork melody that can’t seem to connect its phrases. But you can also hear McGraw still ironing out his vocal technique, as his likably nervous tremor in the verses meets a series of clumsy trills and some pitchy “baby”s and “maybe”s.
That great title sentiment shines bright, though, almost overcoming the facelessness of the story and the aforementioned sonic issues. Just not quite.