My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Tim McGraw – ‘Damn Country Music’

1035x1035-image003Tim McGraw’s fourteenth album, Damn Country Music, is his third release for Big Machine Records in as many years. Like the majority of his work, McGraw co-produced the album with Byron Gallimore.

Lead single “Top of the World” currently sits just inside the top ten. The sweeping ballad is a pop confection, complete with beats surrounding McGraw’s smooth voice. He’s done better, but he’s also given us far worse.

McGraw previewed the title track in lead up to the album’s release. “Damn Country Music” is a chase your dreams in the music industry song, set to a somewhat cluttered unmistakably country arrangement. I really like the message that no matter what, life always circles back to the same thing:

It’s the hum of wheels on a blacktop

The strum of strings on a flat top

It’ll take you, break you

Damn sure, make you

Do things; you never thought you’d be doing

Damn country music

Rodney Clawson scored three co-writes on the album. “Losin’ You” is a progressive laundry list pop ballad about all the places he keeps losing the woman who already broke up with him. “Want You Back” is more of the same, but this time he’s begging his girl to come back home. “California” is the most ‘country’ of the three, but the arrangement is so progressive, you’d never know it. The track features Big & Rich, but their ‘contributions’ are basically inaudible.

“Here Tonight,” the other duet, features his eldest daughter eighteen-year-old Gracie, the front woman of alt-rock band Tingo. It’s very good, although McGraw and Gallimore should’ve stripped away the wailing guitars to reveal the organic charm underneath.

I first heard “Humble and Kind” when Little Big Town brought Lori McKenna on stage to sing it at a local concert last year (McKenna lives in my area and has even appeared on the radio station where I assist with the morning news show). The song is excellent and I like what McGraw has done with it. I only wish the key could’ve been moved up so McGraw could sing in a more pleasing place in his voice. As it stands, he doesn’t have the vocal to carry the song.

“How I’ll Always Be” is one of the more charming songs, with a shuffle arrangement echoing “Just To See You Smile.” The latter blows the former out of the water, but at least McGraw gives us one track that tries to retain some hint of country music.

I can hear how “Love Does” would’ve easily fit into an early 2000s context, but the proceedings are ruined by a clubby arrangement and processed vocal that renders McGraw almost unrecognizable. “What You’re Looking For” is just more of the same.

What isn’t more of the same is “Don’t Make Me Feel At Home,” the only track on the album that is unmistakably country music through and through. The arrangement is crap, but the obvious country elements shine through loud and clear. In the late 1990s, this tune about a guy begging to be loved would’ve been clean, sharp and a multi-week chart topper. As it stands right now, the track is just too cluttered.

Damn Country Music, despite its title, is country music by association only. Tim McGraw has made a progressive pop record, and a bad one at that. I’m sick of him showing his gravelly side dressed up with gritty gruff guitars. I’m sick of the processed vocals and watered down vibe he continues to go for. McGraw should’ve been at the CMAs to watch Chris Stapleton execute this style correctly. Let the new guy teach the old guy how its done.

Grade: C

7 responses to “Album Review: Tim McGraw – ‘Damn Country Music’

  1. Leeann November 12, 2015 at 6:35 am

    The only songs I like from this album are “Damn Country Music”, “Don’t Make Me Feel at Home” and “How I’ll Always Be.” I didn’t think the arrangement was bad on “Don’t Make Me Feel at Home”? My main problem with this album is similar to yurs though. His voice is way too processed, including and especially his daughter’s, and most of the production is bland pop.

  2. southtexaspistolero November 12, 2015 at 8:28 am

    In the late 1990s, this tune about a guy begging to be loved would’ve been clean, sharp and a multi-week chart topper.

    It’s funny you should say that — because the song was originally recorded and released in 1995 by a guy named Wesley Dennis, and it didn’t even crack the top 40. Shame, too, because his recording of it was absolutely KILLER.

    • Paul W Dennis November 12, 2015 at 10:20 am

      Thanks for posting the clip

      Wesley’s version is much better than the mess Tim McGraw made of the song. I purchased Wesley’s CD back when it came out on the strength of the little airplay that this song and “I Don’t Know What I’ve Been Told” received in Central Florida

      • luckyoldsun November 13, 2015 at 12:53 am

        I purchased it on the strength that the cover looked possibly interesting and it was sitting in the country bin in one of used/promo CD shops on St. Marx Place that I used to visit in those days, tagged at something like $1.99 .
        I sort of had a sense that Mercury (or whoever the label was) was trying to launch Dennis as their answer to Alan Jackson. I thought it was a good disc, but it never happened for Dennis.

  3. southtexaspistolero November 12, 2015 at 11:13 am

    I purchased Wesley’s CD back when it came out

    Oh, color me jealous! I should have done that; it’s out of print now, from what I understand. Wesley Dennis has a really great voice.

    I agree that WD’s version of this song is much better, but I didn’t think Tim’s was that bad. Better that than more trash like “Truck Yeah” or “Lookin’ For That Girl.”

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