Single Review: Tim McGraw with Faith Hill, “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s”

Tim McGraw Faith Hill Meanwhile Back at Mama's“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

Grade: A



  1. So who else is sad that “Lookin’ For That Girl” died on the charts . . . . . . . . . . . . . Nobody, didn’t think so. As his career ages, it is songs like this that will help it do so gracefully. Certainly not objectifying songs that even a 20 year old is out of place and line to be singing like his prior single was.

    I won’t say this is a sign of things to come from Tim because I’ve been fooled before, “Live Like You Were Dying”, “Better Than I Used to Be”. I do hope though, even if with a lot of doubt, that this is the direction is he wishes to take the remainder of his musical career. If it is, I may forgive him for past, gapingly large indiscretions.

  2. This is so good! He hasn’t released something this good in way too many years! I’m doubting we’ll be so lucky, but it’d be awesome if the new album sounded like this…but I’ll take this one offering for now.

  3. I love the production on this. A lot.

    But it’s by and large the same song as “Where The Green Grass Grows” and it’s not quite as good as that one, for me at least.

    Nonetheless, it’s good to have the old, thoughtful McGraw back for a little while.

  4. There were moments that reminded me of “Green Grass Grows”, too. Though it feels more to me like “Flies on the Butter” and “Take Me Home, Country Roads”, without the melancholic undertones of those two.

  5. I’m still pleasantly surprised the abomination that was “Lookin’ For That Girl” was abruptly pulled: despite unbelievably shocking favorable callout on radio surveys and that it was gaining some digital sales momentum as well at the time its cord was cut.

    Against the wishes of radio listening sheeple, Big Machine actually made the right call by prematurely putting that Auto-Tuned jalopy to sleep. What’s more, they provide this………….which is EASILY McGraw’s best single since “Better Than I Used To Be” (I’m leaning towards arguing it edges that and is actually his best single since “If You’re Reading This” seven years prior).

    You can count on this being the first McGraw single in three years I’ll be rooting to reach #1.

  6. Have to agree. It’s much better than “Lookin’ for that girl”. I like it but i don’t love it. I don’t feel the urge to play it again and again.

  7. Unfortunately, I am not as thrilled about this song as others are. But I agree it’s his best since “Better Than I Used to Be.”

    It loses points with me because it starts out, “runnin’ ’round in this new truck,” then mentions playing Cash on the radio, then mentions the windows being down and missing “dirt on the road” and “small town roots, walkin’ around in muddy boots.”

    I feel like it still finds ways to pander to radio and offers some very predictable things to miss.

    I also don’t care for the lyric “funny the things you thought you’d never miss” because I feel like that sentiment has been made many times before and there probably is a more original way to state it.

    Overall, I would call this a B+. I would like it better if he had more original thoughts to reminisce on.

  8. I think I agree with Richie. If McGraw had more original thoughts to reminisce on, and more original thoughts to complain about in the city, it would be much better.

  9. I don’t like these kind of songs generally speaking. But I like Tim and Faith. That said I still don’t see myself replaying this over and over again. Feels a bit false. Mississippi Girl felt the same way to me. Not saying they are, it’s just this whole type of song “i love where i come from” feels forced and fake no matter who sings them. JMHO.

  10. Also, an interesting side note on why “Lookin’ for that Girl” was pulled as it was gaining popularity.

    I fill out surveys for Rate The Music and frequently get surveys from labels asking for opinions on songs or albums. Big Machine sends out tons of these. A few weeks after “That Girl” was released they sent out a survey about it. Then, a few weeks later they sent another asking if the song had grown on us or if we liked it better than before.

    I’ve been doing Rate Them Music for about 2 years and have never been sent a follow up survey to see if a song had grown on me.

    My guess is that McGraw’s longtime fans were negative about the song and asked for a return to the “old Tim McGraw.” Big Machine responded with this song that even featured Faith Hill, an obvious nod to McGraw’s heyday in the early ’00s.

  11. “Lookin’ for that Girl” had been testing well in general market research, my guess is that it was immensely well received by young fans. This hypothesis is backed by the sales numbers the song was posting in it’s last few weeks as a single.

    I think Big Machine understands that McGraw’s use of auto-tune and embrace of modern country sounds is beginning to alienate the people that have supported him for 15-20 years. They’re trying to find a happy medium and realized “That Girl” could do some harm to McGraw’s popularity with older fans.

  12. I’m still realistic about it all. I think his next album will be just about the same as his last. A couple decent slower songs, a bunch of middle of the road stuff, and a few terrible songs to fit in with the young stars.

    I’m sure his future albums will feature a lead-off single “for the kids,” then a few bland singles that won’t offend anyone and maybe one good single. This song is his “one good single” for Sundown Heaven Town. The next two will be dull, mark my words.

  13. While I acknowledge you know what you’re talking about and have experience to boot in delineating your theory, Richie……….I’m dead serious when I claim “Lookin’ For That Girl” fared remarkably well in callout surveys.

    It debuted on the February 18th edition of the Bullseye Callout chart at #18 with only a net “dislike” score of 16% (That same week, George Strait’s “I Got A Car” quixotically had a 22.5% “Dislike” score and Dierks Bentley’s “I Hold On” had a 19% score). Which, for those of you who aren’t known to track callout data, is pretty decent.

    Granted the professional reviews were unanimously negative (unless you’re Taste of Country and Roughstock, obviously! ;) ). Then again, the same rings true for “This Is How We Roll” and you don’t see poor reviews standing in their way.

    I remain convinced the single was more than capable of staying alive for at least four more weeks, as much as I’m glad Big Machine spared our eardrums recurrent torture.

  14. I didn’t mean to disagree with what you said, Noah, about “That Girl” testing well. I was aware that in market research the song was doing well.

    In RateTheMusic surveys sent by labels, there is a portion where you can type feedback about what you thought of the song. My guess is that “That Girl” overall did well in RateTheMusic, but many people who were longtime fans wrote in some pretty negative things about it. I think “Mama’s” is just a onetime thing to please McGraw’s older fans and keep them from jumping ship.

    “That Girl” probably had already reached the audience it was designed for and thus there wasn’t much point in pushing it further on radio and risking alienating his older fans. I’m sure his next single will be in the vein of “One of Those Nights” and will be slightly pleasing to both audiences, but not amazing to anyone.

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