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I'm a big country music fan, but I find that in this country we tend to get mostly the mainstream, somewhat cheesy variety. Fortunately I visit the States a lot, and listen to plenty of internet radio for inspiration of what to download, so my iPod has a pretty wide selection of artists.
Tim McGraw IS one of the mainstream. He has been around a long time, and it is easy to pick up his CDs in the UK. Luckily, he has managed to become successful without being quite as cringeworthy as competing male solo artists, Kenny Chesney being a fine example. (As an aside, I don't think it's possible to become a popular country artist without having horrendous dress sense. Tim's shirt on the cover of the Live Like You Were Dying single was..interesting).
Live Like You Were Dying was released in 2004, as Tim's 9th album, and did phenomenally well, going quadruple platinum and being nominated for two Grammys. Tracks are as follows:
1. How Bad Do You Want It
A nice catchy start to the CD, and the type of song McGraw does really well. Just a good upbeat song.
2. My Old Friend
A pretty dull track all things considered, a slowish country filler with not too much to say about it.
3. Can't Tell Me Nothin'
My favourite country songs are those which tell a story, and this tells about warnings that were totally ignored and how the situations ended up. Not an inspiring arrangement musically, but pretty decent.
4. Old Town New
A nice slow one about wanting a change because everything in town is a reminder of a past relationship. I'm sure everyone has felt that to some extent, and the song sums it up very nicely.
5. Live Like You Were Dying
This was out and shot straight to number one in the Billboard Country chart, staying there for seven weeks, while I was working in the US, blasting country music all day. I must have heard it at least three times a day. It wound up being the country song of the year ('04) and I can see why. It's about a man who is dying and fully appreciating all the time he has left and thinking of things he wants to do before he dies. A really nice song which has more than likely inspired by McGraw's father who had recently died of cancer.
6. Drugs or Jesus
My ultimate no-no in a country song is talking about Jesus. It just turns me right off. I listen to music for entertainment, not preaching. If I wanted that, I would go to church, but I'm Atheist. This song isn't so much preaching as talking about a town where everyone is totally into either drugs or Jesus, and about how Tim (presumably, it's in first person) doesn't want to go down either route. This somewhat pleased the "No Jesus Allowed" rule of my country music listening, but not bringing him up at all would have been preferable.
7. Back When
This was another song that was out around the time I was in the States, having been released as a single. I love the song and the concept - an upbeat number playing on words which meant different things in the "good old days", eg when Coke was just a fizzy drink and crack was making a joke. It is one I can't help but sing along to, but I defy you to get it out of your head within about a week of listening.
8. Something's Broken
Not a favourite. Pretty unoriginal in both lyrics and music. A filler.
9. Open Season on my Heart
Not the greatest, tries too hard to rhyme which results in some odd lyrics. "Days go by like flying bricks?" Um, what?
10. Everybody Hates Me
About aspiring to do so well in your career that everyone hates you. Another "story-like" song, but it does go on a bit...
11. Walk Like a Man
It's not catchy, a bit monotonous, but the lyrics, about not ending up like a deadbeat father, are pretty decent.
12. Blank Sheet of Paper
A really pretty song about apologising and regrets. A simple song, but a good one.
13. Just Be Your Tear
This song confuses me. It seems like something Boyzone would have sung in the 90s. Yet I kind of, just a little bit, like it.
14. Do You Want Fries With That
I love this song! About a run-in with the man who ended up with his entire life after a break-up while he's stuck broke and working in a fast food place. There's a healthy dose of anger and wanting revenge ("I hope your chicken's raw inside and I hope your bun is stale"). A great song for anyone who's ever been bitter.
15. Kill Myself
Yes, country music is depressing. But do we need to hear the to-do list before someone kills themself, in song form? No, I didn't think so either. It's not a BAD song as such, but as Tim McGraw has never actually killed himself, it seems like a really weird work of fiction and pretty unnecessary.
16. We Carry On
An okay song, not stand-out but a nice close to the album.
Much as I like this CD, I can't help feeling it is a tad long and would be more consistent if we skipped some of the more mundane songs. I also realised as I listened for the review that okay, maybe he is a bit cheesy at times. At least lower-league cheese. A mild cheddar perhaps. That said, when Tim McGraw is good, he's very, very good. And when he's bad, he's still *okay*.
Country CDs are generally a little more expensive over here and this is no exception, at £10.79 on Amazon.co.uk at the time of writing. I daresay you could find it cheaper used or perhaps on eBay, and it's worth buying for the stand-out singles alone if you can get a good deal.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 How Bad Do You Want It
2 My Old Friend
3 Can't Tell Me Nothin'
4 Old Town New
5 Live Like You Were Dying
6 Drugs or Jesus
7 Back When
8 Something's Broken
9 Open Season on My Heart
10 Everybody Hates Me
11 Walk Like a Man
12 Blank Sheet of Paper
13 Just Be Your Tear
14 Do You Want Fries With That
15 Kill Myself
16 We Carry On