Retro Single Review: Tim McGraw, “Can’t Be Really Gone”

Despite the dated keys, light swells of synthesizers and layered background vocals, “Can’t Be Really Gone” manages to be McGraw’s most compelling single to that point in his career both in content and performance.

Unlike “Don’t Take the Girl”, “Can’t Be Really Gone” doesn’t have to pull out any stops of overwrought heartstring pulls to pack a good punch. In fact, it straightforwardly captures the feeling of disbelief that accompanies a surreal event like having somebody in your life one minute and then the next minute trying to comprehend the knowledge that he or she is gone.  In this case, little details of everything still in their places, including a book that is almost completely read, only heighten the disbelief and denial of this man’s situation.

Until this single, McGraw sang with an exaggerated twang that often threatened to sound more silly than serious. His quiet, melancholy vocal performance on this record, however, demonstrates that he is capable of properly interpreting a song when it is necessary, which is something that he gets even better at proving as his career progresses.

Written by Gary Burr

Grade: B+



  1. Love this song. I’ve seen writer Gary Burr sing it with just a guitar 3 or 4 times at the Bluebird Cafe. I never heard McGraw sing it live, but I doubt that he could equal Burr’s performance.

  2. For me, Tim McGraw’s artistry began with the line, “Her book is lying on the bed, the two of hearts to mark her page. Now who would ever walk away at Chapter 21?”

    This hit is the beginning of him becoming the man with the extraordinary song sense. The next album was stacked with songs with the same attention to detail.

  3. This song totes pwns most of Timmy’s earlier singles. He has gotten a lot better as he aged but I do like that he still records some novelty songs now and then. Still he has come along way since “Indian Outlaw” and “Don’t Take The Girl.”

  4. Nice find in the archives. I always think it’s interesting that the hook isn’t phrased “Can’t Really Be Gone”… one of those “Blue Clear Sky” things, I guess.

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