When Tim McGraw announced that his next album, set to be released in November, would be unashamedly titled Damn Country Music, we all began wondering what the “damn” referred to. Was this a mark of irony, or did “damn” emphasize the country of an album being released in a mostly non-country world simply using the term as a label? With the release of the album’s title track, it seems we have our answer.
Penned by Josh Thompson, Jessi Alexander, and Cary Barlowe, “Damn Country Music” is an honest look at the effect country music has on all those it touches. Described as the “neon fever for a small town dreamer,” country music is portrayed as the mistress that can make you leave your girlfriend, break your mother’s heart, quit your job, and leave your entire life behind. Unlike some other songs, this song does not imply that the sacrifice always works out; “you might get lost in the lights, the things that keep you up all night,” and “the sweetest highs, the lowest lows” tell us that it is not always easy. But “damn country music,” whether it breaks our hearts or makes us stars, it has a profound effect on everyone who chooses to pursue it. Tim McGraw can certainly tell this story truthfully; he came to Nashville on a whim on May 10, 1989, the day after his hero, Keith Whitley, died. He has certainly had “the sweetest highs” in his career, but knows many lows as well; numerous legal battles with Curb Records stalled his career for many years. This song carries a ring of authenticity coming from McGraw that helps it a lot. As for the instrumentation, it is decidedly country–rife with steel guitar, it is one of the most traditional things Tim has ever recorded. It is certainly “damn country music.” If this is what we can look forward to with the album, I think we can expect a good release from Tim McGraw.