Single Review: Tim McGraw with Catherine Dunn, “Diamond Rings and Old Barstools”

Tim McGraw Catherine Dunn Diamond Rings and Old Barstools

“Diamond Rings and Old Barstools”
Tim McGraw with Catherine Dunn

Written by Barry Dean, Luke Laird, and Jonathan Singleton

Tim McGraw should be applauded for finally meeting the potential that many of us had hoped for after he left the oppressive Curb Records. His most recent album, particularly his last couple singles, have dialed back the loudness, embraced a more traditional and organic sound, reconnected him with the warm vocals with which he had all but lost, and the last two singles have even presented more thoughtful lyrics than he’d been singing in the last few years.

“Diamond Rings and Old Barstools”, with standout background vocals by his cousin, Catherine Dunn, is the third single in a row with a production that is worthy to be called country music. Moreover, McGraw’s vocals are strong, sincere and devoid of obvious studio effects.

The thing that is missing from this winning combination, however, is a clear understanding of the metaphors that this song is trying to convey. It is apparent that the lyrics are stating that diamond rings and barstools don’t mix, much like the relationship in question, but the metaphor is clunky and requires a lot of guessing and second guessing in order to extrapolate the intended comparisons. What it seems to come down to is that one of these things is not like the other, but how exactly it’s not like the other is unclear.

Grade: B


  1. I freaking love this song. Been playing it on heavy rotation ever since it was released ahead of the album back in July, and I’m so excited it was selected as a single. I’m even more excited that it’s been rising up the charts pretty quickly! Maybe this is just blind optimism, but I really think this could be the song that starts a wave of modern old-school country. This could be big for country music.

  2. I have to admit this sounds like something he would’ve recorded for Everywhere or A Place In The Sun back in the late 90s. Anything that sounds as good as that is a step in the right direction for Tim.

    Nice song

  3. To answer Leeann, I think this song is about a man who thought he could get married and settle down, but still keep his carefree, party-going lifestyle. But, “some things just don’t mix you hoped”, and diamond rings (his family life) and barstools (the life he wants to lead) certainly don’t.

  4. Have I enjoyed McGraw’s efforts more lately? Yes, I most certainly have. I am glad to see the Tim McGraw of the late-90’s and early 2000’s return.

    However, let’s not forget that the song he (or the label execs) chose to debut his new album with was the once-in-a-lifetime bad “Lookin For That Girl”. So for all the talk of McGraw’s move towards substance, it is going to either take a lot of these types of songs to erase the stain left by “Lookin’ For That Girl.” Give me about five more “Diamonds and Bar Old Stools” and I’ll be ready to forgive. Maybe I am being too harsh or maybe “That Girl” was just that atrocious.

  5. Good interpretation SRM. That’s the conclusion that I came to as well, but I just think they could have made it more clear. I feel like we have to fill a lot in to get to the point.

    Motown Mike, I forgive easily, but if he slips back into that crap, I’ll unforgive easily too.:)

  6. I would give this an “A” grade, while I agree the lyrics are not earth shattering in terms of clarity or deepness, the production and McGraw/Dunn on vocals in top notch and it is once again a song that is so different in production and lyrical depth than everything else on Country radio that I have to bump it up for that.

    Maybe that is being too easy on artists, but honestly at this point any artist who releases a substance filled song that actually has Country production to it gets bumped up a notch in my eyes.

  7. Leeann,
    My interpretation is similar to what SRM and Markus already said. He is coming to the realization that his drinking-heavy lifestyle is keeping him from being able to settle down with his girl, the “queen” who deserves a diamond ring. The line “one’s the future and one’s the past” hints to me that he is stuck in a history of hard living which is keeping him from the future he wants. I think the second verse supports this with the “another morning waking up alone” line.

    No, this interpretation isn’t a slam dunk, and the writing could be clearer. But it’s better than relying on cliche lines, and the instrumentation and vocals are good enough that I can overlook some of the ambiguity.

  8. Yes, the song sounding so good lets me overlook the ambiguity too, but while the lines aren’t specifically clichéd, I often think that when lyrics are too ambiguous when they don’t have to be, it’s another form of lazy songwriting. Ultimately, I do like this song quite a bit despite it’s muddy metaphor.

  9. …being the kind of guy, who enjoys views from the far side with a crooked angle thrown in for good measure, i must admit: i like it a lot. not as much as chesney’s brillant – yet probably accidental – “you and tequila”, but almost.

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