Tim McGraw

Tim McGraw and the Dancehall Doctors

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Tim "Outlaw" McGraw has been one of the most consistent of the late-'90s country superstars. Never content to reply on his reputation, he continually pushed at the pillars of the hall that created him, namely Nash Vegas. McGraw's particular gift as an interpreter of other songwriters' works is almost singular among his generation of singers. Not relying solely on production, McGraw uses numerous voices to get to the heart of a song. On this album, McGraw convinced his label and co-producers, Byron Gallimore and Darran Smith, to use his road band, the Dancehall Doctors, to make a more organic and immediate sounding record. It worked. From the stunning opener, "Comfort Me," by Craig Wiseman and Don Poythress, an ancient military sounding snare drum and a bleeding guitar note usher in a tune that is the only non-cloying patriotic song that was recorded after September 11, 2001. It's a hymn equal parts country and Celtic that is an homage to all of those who entered this country by going past the Statue of Liberty and entered the American experience. When he reaches the end, "I am the tired, I am your poor in spirit/yearnin' to breathe, breathe free...," the listener is caught up in the "us" of the song; it's inclusive, and captures in McGraw's prayer for comfort, for deliverance not from something else but to the space that freedom is -- defined both individually and collectively -- is unique among the country songs that came up after the disaster struck. Interestingly enough, it sets the tone for a record full of romantic archetypes, not only the icon of Lady Liberty, but family ("Home"); the reliving of experience unconsciously ("Red Ragtop"); escape and recreation of oneself ("That's Why God Made Mexico"); the idealization of love as a force in and of itself ("Watch the Wind Blow By", a killer soul-oriented track by Anders Osborne, and McGraw sings the hell out of it); dislocation and the realization that home isn't such a bad place to be ("Sing Me Home"); and others. McGraw closes the record with Elton John's and Bernie Taupin's "Tiny Dancer," and for a verse or so, you'd swear it was the same recording. It's frightening how close to the original it is. Why would anyone try to recreate a song so close to its original version; simple, because they love it. And McGraw's version is gorgeous, soulful, and deep like the rest of And the Dance Hall Kings.

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