My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Tug McGraw

Album Review: Tim McGraw – ‘Live Like You Were Dying’

2004 saw the release of Tim’s eighth studio album, Live Like You Were Dying.  It proved to be something of a return to form after the disappointing Dancehall Doctors album, thanks to much better material, although Tim kept that production team of himself, band leader Darran Smith and Byron Gallimore, with the Dancehall Doctors again providing backing.  The album’s making was overshadowed by the death of Tim’s father Tug at the beginning of the year, and it can be no coincidence that much of the material here is about contemplating loss and death and the sum of one’s life.  Although Tim did not contribute to any of the songwriting, the overall feel is of a very personal selection of material.

The title track served as the lead single, and it was exceptionally successful, hitting #1 and selling a million copies.  Written by Tim Nichols and Craig Wiseman, it tells the story of a 40something man who is spurred by a potentially terminal diagnosis to experience various things on his “bucket list” before it is too late.  The underlying Hallmark card message about living life to the full was obviously inspiring to many listeners, and touchingly it’s about being a good friend and husband as well as just having fun and engaging in dangerous sports (not something most people would actually be able to do if suffering a fatal illness).  The nostalgic but even more cliche’d ‘Back When’ was, surprisingly, the album’s second straight chart topper, although it is the album’s least imaginative song, and one that makes Tim sound like an old man grumbling about changing times and new uses of words.  It’s also rather disconcerting to hear the far-from-traditional McGraw complaining about “pop in my country”.

The much better ‘Drugs Or Jesus’ then faltered just inside the top 15.  It’s an interesting song about being trapped in a small town, where religion and illegal highs offer the only escape:

In my hometown

You’re either lost or found

It was probably too bleak and challenging an approach to be embraced by country radio, too often inclined to the comfortably self congratulatory when examining rural or small-town life.  The protagonist in this case has been fleeing from God, but seems to accept Him at the end.

The sour post-divorce tale of ‘Do You Want Fries With That?’ took him back to the top 5.  It’s an entertaining if slightly cartoonish tale (written by Casey Beathard and Kerry Kurt Philips) of a man financially ruined by the breakup of his marriage and reduced to a second job serving fast food, who encounters and rails against the man who has taken his place in the family home:

Your ketchup’s in the bag
And her check is in the mail
I hope your chicken’s raw inside
And I hope your bun is stale
I’m supposed to tell you
“Please come back!”
But how ‘bout this instead?
I hope you both choke on a pickle
Man, that would tickle me to death

The final single, the reflective ‘My Old Friend’, about an old friend who has died, is quite good, but would have been more appealing given a stripped down production.  It peaked at #6.

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Spotlight Artist: Tim McGraw

This month we’ve decided to take a look at the career of one of contemporary country’s biggest stars, Tim McGraw.

Born Tim D’Agostino to a teenage single mother in Louisiana in 1967, Tim believed until he was eleven years old that he was the son of Horace Smith, who had married his mother Betty when Tim was a baby. Smith’s drunken abusive behaviour had led Betty to leave the family home with Tim and her two younger children. Tim disocevered from his birth certificate that he was in fact the son of baseball player Tug McGraw. They met soon after the boy’s discovery, but McGraw senior refused to acknowledge his paternity until Tim was 17. A relationship was forged between the two in Tim’s adulthood, and Tim supported his father through the latter’s unsuccessful fight against cancer.

Music helped take Tim to college, winning him a scholarship. After dropping out in his third year he taught himself to play guitar, and moved to Nashville with a dream. His father had not been there for him during his formative years, but he did help Tim get his career started. One of Tug’s fans worked for Curb Records, and Tug gave him a copy of Tim’s demo tape in 1990. This was enough to get the label interested, and they signed him to a record deal. He then got a band together and began touring small clubs. Curb, always happy to let a young artist develop slowly, released Tim’s debut album in 1993.

Success was slow to come, but eventually he made a breakthrough with smash hit ‘Indian Outlaw’, and his second album Not A Moment Too Soon became the top selling country album of 1994. He was named the Academy of Country Music’s Top New Male Vocalist, and soon became a fixture at the top of the country charts with a string of big radio hits and best selling albums. While he is not the best vocalist out there, and rarely writes his own songs, he has chosen his material well.

In 1996, Tim embarked on the well-named Spontaneous Combustion tour with Faith Hill, during which the pair fell in love. Faith had been engaged to her producer Scott Hendricks, but he was soon history, and she and Tim were married by the end of the year, with the first of their three daughters arriving the following year. They have toured together ever since, recorded a number of duets, and their marriage has proved one of the strongest in modern country music.

A side interest in acting has led to several film roles, most notably 2009’s The Blind Side which won co-star Sandra Bullock an Oscar. He also appeared in the country music themed Country Strong.

Tim’s solo career has proved consistently successful, and he has sold over 40 million records. However, by the second half of the 2000s, his relationship with Curb Records was increasingly fractious – and increasingly public. The label picked odd choices for singles, released a number of hits compilations apparently in an attempt to stave off the fulfilment of the contract, and delayed the release of Tim’s latest album. The conflict eventually reached the courts, with Tim and Curb suing each other. A trial is due to start this summer, but an interim hearing late last year cleared Tim to seek new recording opportunities, and in response to this Curb immediately released his latest single ‘Better Than I Used To Be’, with Emotional Traffic following at the end of January. His future may be uncertain, making this a good time to look back at his career to date.