My Kind of Country

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

Single Review: Tim McGraw – ‘How I’ll Always Be’

how-ill-always-beSince leaving Curb, Tim McGraw seems to have regained his interest in recording good songs – and to be one of the few artists country radio allows to sing songs with substance. He follows up recent #1 ‘Humble And Kind’ with another strong song. His latest single, ‘How I’ll Always Be’ is a sweet paean to the simple things in life, written by Chris Janson, Jeremy Stover and Jamie Paulin. The protagonist happily admits to being a little old fashioned, wanting

a little more ol’ Hank Williams [rather] than that trendy crap

the gentle tone is somewhat belied by some aspects of the lyrics which present the protagonist as a fighter, but those are balanced by his love of

Ol’ stray dogs and guitars playin’
One room churches, back road walks and front porch swingin’

He is the quintessential character in a country song,

Fast cars and motorcycles
Raisin’ hell in cowboy boots
But hey on Sunday morning I’ll take the back row seat

The charming lyric is set to a gentle melody is supported by country instrumentation and understated production. This is country music as we rarely hear it on radio. The only flaw, sonically, is that the autotune which too often seems to be used to smooth out McGraw’s vocals is audible again. His personal connection to the lyric is evident, with a warm, tender approach, and the record does all the right things – apart from that one issue, which stops me from completely loving the track. It is still a breath of fresh air on the radio, though, and would probably sound great in the car, when other sounds muffle the autotune.

Grade: B+

Listen here:

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6 responses to “Single Review: Tim McGraw – ‘How I’ll Always Be’

  1. Jonathan Pappalardo September 14, 2016 at 3:21 pm

    Great review, OH! Tim has been firing on all cylinders lately. It’s amazing, when no one was looking he went and became the smart elder statesman. He deserves his CMA recognition this year.

    I do prefer Lori McKenna’s own version of “Humble and Kind,” though. I adore her new album more and more each time I listen to it.

  2. luckyoldsun September 14, 2016 at 5:18 pm

    Given that it’s been several years since Alan Jackson or Toby Keith last had a hit, it seems McGraw is indeed now the “elder statesman” of mainstream country: the oldest and longest-running act still going strong. And Chesney is right behind him. I’ll leave it to someone else to figure out who’s #3 on that list (or let me know if I’ve overlooked anyone).

    • Jonathan Pappalardo September 14, 2016 at 7:16 pm

      #3 is Brad Paisley while #4 is Keith Urban. They both entered the scene as solo artists (I’m not counting The Ranch which hit in 1997) in 1999. Blake Shelton, who comes in at #5, debuted in 2001.
      The remaining prominent male figures in modern country entered the scene (as SOLO artists with non-indiepedent albums) in 2003 (Dierks), 2005 (Jason), 2006 (Eric), 2007 (Luke) and 2015 (Chris S).

      I’ve thought WAY too long about this!

      • luckyoldsun September 17, 2016 at 12:04 am

        Interesting subject. The artist who held this “title” or designation before Tim would have been Strait–who had top-40 hits from 1981 through 2015. He actually outlasted Alan and Toby–and Garth–and everyone else who came after him–up until McGraw and Chesney.

  3. Ken September 15, 2016 at 8:41 am

    Interesting retro sound for Tim reminiscent of his 1997 hit “Just To See You Smile.” Compared to what is on the country charts today this song is definitely “a little more ol’ Hank Williams than that trendy crap.”

    Also I don’t find the autotune on this song any more obtrusive than on any other Tim McGraw recording. I think it’s actually become part of his “sound” and the average listener probably does not really notice it. There are very few really good singers anymore so it’s not like Tim is that much worse than the rest of the herd.

    • Occasional Hope September 15, 2016 at 3:11 pm

      That’s probably true, Ken, but I’ve found it strikes me more strongly these days, even when re-listening to his earlier music.

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