Tag Archives: Tim McGraw

Album Review: The Rest of our Life by Tim McGraw and Faith Hill

Rating: 3/10

“I Need You.” “It’s Your Love.” “Let’s Make Love.” Meanwhile, Back at Mama’s.” “like we Never Loved at All.” “Angry All the Time.” “Just to Hear You Say That You Love Me.” All excellent songs. All duets by Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. All evidence that a duets album from them could truly be special.

So why is this record so bland and boring???

It’s not terrible, not in the sense that you would turn off your radio if any of this came on. Well, except for the incredibly irritating closer, “Roll the Dice.” But there’s more than one way to make a bad album, and releasing a lifeless record, particularly when you have the kind of chemistry and vocal talent these two possess, is just inexcusable. Picking good duets is one of the hardest things for vocalists to do; you have to flatter both voices and make sure the voices complement each other. It’s hard enough to choose one, never mind an album full of them. But not only do McGraw and Hill have a proven ability to do this, they have a connection and chemistry between them that goes beyond their music and in turn translates into the emotion in their songs. Maybe you don’t like Faith Hill, or maybe you think she’s too pop, but the point is, this record had endless potential for excellent, genre-defying music. And it just falls flat on so many accounts.

First of all, just because they’re married, and just because they’re singing duets, does this mean every song has to be a love song? Jason Eady and Courtney Patton didn’t do this with their duets album; hell, Rhonda Vincent and Daryle Singletary didn’t even do this, and they chose some of the most clich├ęd duets ever to cover. With Tim and Faith, I understand the temptation to just go for love songs, and that could be excused if any of these weren’t generic, predictable, and/or hadn’t been done by them earlier in their careers. “The Bed we Made,” for example, just comes off as a cheap rip-off of the far better “Let’s Make Love.” In that song, they actually sounded impassioned. This song isn’t flattering to either of them vocally, especially straining Faith in her lower register, and generally just comes off as lifeless. That’s the problem with so many of these songs; there’s no passion. And it’s even more frustrating to listen to when you know just what kind of passion McGraw and Hill have been capable of before.

So where’s the problem? Much of it lies simply in not picking songs which flatter them both. “Speak to a Girl,” which actually is slightly better on the album because it’s actually not a love song and provides a little variety, doesn’t really work for either of them. It’s better for Faith overall, but she has to stay too much in the lower part of her register. But it’s also too high for Tim, and he doesn’t even sound like himself. You can’t hear his twang at all, and by the way, that’s another disconcerting thing here–Tim literally has twang on half of this and doesn’t on the other half. He’s definitely faking one or the other, and the ease with which he can turn off his accent is just not natural. When he forsakes his twang, he’s often singing in a higher register, like on the opener and title track, and he doesn’t sound natural at all, both because of the range and because of his tone. More effort went into making Faith sound good, probably because this is her “comeback” moment, but at times, her voice doesn’t always fit the song either. “The Bed we Made,” as previously mentioned, is much too low for her in the verses. “Break First” is another good example of this, as they sing in unison, and she sounds awkward having to sing so high. “Cowboy Lullaby” is where their voices come together the best, as well as “Damn Good at Holding On.” The former is a Tim-led track, and his twang is present in full force, inviting Faith to come with him and ride horses into the night. Her harmony blends in effortlessly here, and you’re reminded of just what they’re capable of. The latter is a Faith-led track, and once again, their harmonies actually fit here.

The problem is that even when the duets do work and fit their voices, there’s nothing especially memorable here. Where’s the unique, undying love in “I Need You” or the soul-shattering heartbreak of “Like we Never Loved at All?” The emotions here are so saccharine and the writing so generic that they ultimately don’t say anything real. The only exception is “Love me to Lie,” in which a relationship is crumbling. Faith takes the lead here, and she’s thanking Tim for being able to love her enough to lie about everything, not to hurt her by saying it’s over. I can see how some will probably really enjoy this, and I will say this one has more depth of emotion than really anything else here, but personally, I just find this horrid. If he loved her enough, he’d be honest with her…but hey, that’s just me.

Most people will either love this (mainstream listeners, Tim and Faith fans, those drawn in by sappy love songs that say nothing of importance), or else just find it meh and uninteresting (probably most of you reading here.) And taken as songs, most of these would indeed get a 4 or a 5. Sprinkle in a 6, perhaps, for “Cowboy Lullaby” and “Damn Good at Holding ON’ and a 1 or 2 for “Roll the Dice.” But it’s the incredible sameness and nothingness about this all that renders it inherently awful, and when you consider the potential it possessed, this is majorly disappointing. Even Blake Shelton’s album, which also received a 3 here, has one great song. Sure, there’s nothing horrific here, but there’s also nothing good about it whatsoever. I won’t return to any of this. None of it is worth my time, and that’s a real shame because if you listen to any of the seven songs listed at the top, you’ll understand what this record could have been–and be sorry it wasn’t.

Buy the Album

Artists I Wish Would Take a Hint From Brad Paisley

Brad Paisley was one of the first artists that got me into country music. He may not be your favorite–and that’s okay–but you can’t argue with songs like “Who Needs Pictures,” “we Danced,” and certainly “Whiskey Lullaby.” He was one of the people that I heard on the radio in the late 90’s and early 2000’s that made me fall in love with this genre. He really disappointed me on his last two albums; they weren’t terrible, but they just weren’t Brad Paisley. You could tell he was trying to be something he was not. His guitar play was noticeably lacking, and he seemed to be veering toward chasing radio success. On his latest album, Love and War, he has gone back to being himself, and that’s just refreshing. There was a discussion on SCM about whether or not Brad will make it into the Hall of Fame, and all that remains to be seen, but he can’t do anything better than be himself, and that’s what he has done on his latest record. It got me thinking and talking about a lot of the artists that got me into country in the first place. A lot of them made some fine music earlier in their careers but have since started to kill their legacies by chasing short-term success and promoting mindless singles to radio. They could learn from Paisley, as well as Tim McGraw, who has also returned to form recently. Zac Brown Band could easily be talked about on either side of the conversation here, but I’ll reserve judgment until May 12th and hope I can include them in with Paisley and McGraw. Anyway, let me know if there are any artists you’d add to this list, as these are just the ones whose decline in quality over the years has personally bother me the most.

Dierks Bentley

Why, why can’t we get back the Dierks Bentley of “Up on the ridge” and “Riser?” Yep, “riser” was released in 2015; even then, he hadn’t sold out. There’s not even any point in him selling out this way–he was getting airplay anyway. Black is certainly not the most terrible album I’ve heard in recent memory, but it’s one of the most disappointing because I really thought we could count on Dierks Bentley. This is what he is capable of.

Blake Shelton

I own a Blake Shelton album called Loaded: the Best of Blake Shelton. Ironically, that album was released just prior to the beginning of his stint on The Voice, and so, essentially, it really is the best of Blake. Anyway, that record is great. But people won’t remember that; he’s done his best to eradicate all that in the past five years with the majority of his singles. I remember when I first heard “Austin,” and it blew me away. Same goes for “Don’t Make Me.” Blake does a lot for traditional country and music of substance from his chair on The Voice, and I just wish he’d take his own advice because if he did, I think he could be remembered for more than his reality show and his obnoxious tweets.

Keith Urban

Those of you that are shocked I own a Blake Shelton album, brace yourselves for this…I own no less than six–yep six–Keith Urban records…I’ll give you a moment to digest the fact that I’m not a Sturgill apologist, yet I own six Keith Urban records…now then. Keith Urban was a prime example of what good pop country is supposed to be–right up till the single “Little Bit of Everything” and his American Idol run (coincidence, Blake?). He used to write much of his material as well, and whether you enjoyed it or not, he was real. Keith Urban might be the most disappointing artist in the mainstream for me because he is just simply better than the crap he is releasing to radio–and it’s not as if he was ever especially traditional in the first place, so I don’t exactly see radio not playing him if he went back to more meaningful material. It literally boils down to laziness in his case, and that’s unfortunate.

Kenny Chesney

He is better than this too, even if you’re sick of beach music. His last record was absolutely boring and lifeless. Even Chesney sounds bored. I miss the days of “There Goes my Life” and “Old Blue chair.” Like Brad and Keith, even if Kenny isn’t your favorite, he used to at least be himself.

Eli Young Band

I remember when Eli Young Band were a cool Texas band releasing equally cool new music instead of shit like “Turn it On.” Yeah, that is basically all.

Honorable Mentions

  • Josh Turner–His last album wasn’t quite disappointing enough to piss me off on this level, it was mainly just boring, but if he releases more like this, he’ll make the list.
  • Little big town–I wish they’d get back to themselves, but I didn’t enjoy them enough when they were themselves to be as annoyed by them now. Also, The Breaker was a small step in the right direction.
  • the Band Perry–I don’t think them coming back to themselves is even possible at this point, so I don’t see the point listing them here.

Single Review: “Speak to a Girl” by Tim McGraw and Faith Hill

Rating: 5/10

Okay, I’m not coming at this as some purist who has a problem with 90% of Faith Hill’s catalogue because it’s more pop/adult contemporary than country. I’ve enjoyed a good chunk of music by both these singers, and they’ve made some excellent songs together. For proof beyond my word, I suggest “Like we Never Loved at All,” “I Need You,” “Angry All the Time,” and “Meanwhile, Back at Mama’s.” That’s not even mentioning the two they’re probably most known for, “It’s Your Love and Let’s Make Love.” So the news that they’re releasing a duets album could potentially mean we’re getting some great music, and if Hill’s inclusion inherently means a more pop sound, I would think that is expected by now. So let’s just establish the fact this is a pop song, judge it accordingly–or not–and move on.

The song itself is about all the things a man should do in order to make a woman fall in love with him. The song explains she doesn’t care about money; she wants a man who respects his mother and treats her right. A pretty cool line is “she wants you to say what you mean and mean everything that you’re saying.” all in all, it’s a nice message and if it does well on radio at all, it will be a blessed contrast from the way radio hits normally speak about women. The two, as always, sing well together.

Still, even though it’s a good message, it feels underdeveloped. it could have been more specific, less generic. The lyrics are a little shallow in places, and I have no idea why sometimes the writers chose “she just want” instead of “she just wants” because it just sounds ridiculous. I guess it’s trying to sound urban or cool, but it really got on my nerves. IN the end, it balances out to just be kind of forgettable which means it will probably be a massive hit in today’s radio climate. Then again, there is a female, and the words are about respecting females, so that’s two strikes against it.

I really wanted to like this song, but it’s just there and really doesn’t do much for me either way. I hope the album will be better.

The Case For Inducting Keith Whitley into the Country Music Hall of Fame

It is that time of year when we start anticipating the names who will be added to the famously selective Country Music Hall of Fame. The Hall has been notoriously careful about preserving an elite class of members, to the point there is now a significant backlog of artists, writers, and musicians who probably should already have been inducted by now. I am not writing this to assert that Keith Whitley deserves to be in before say, Alan Jackson, whose exclusion has become almost ridiculous, or to discount others worthy of the distinction. This is why I mentioned the backlog, as Keith Whitley is one of several names who have earned their place here and have yet to receive it. But I do consider it a travesty that Keith Whitley’s motorcycle, pictured here, has made it into the Hall before Whitley himself. So perhaps because of the seeming uncertainty among many that Whitley deserves this honor at all, or perhaps because I want to explain why I signed the petition started by his fans to have him inducted, or perhaps simply because Keith Whitley’s music is one of the biggest reasons I fell in love with country music and still carry a passion for it to this day, I feel especially compelled to reach out and explain why Keith Whitley deserves a place alongside his piers and his motorcycle in the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Career

Keith Whitley grew up in Kentucky and first made a name for himself performing in Ralph Stanley’s Clinch Mountain Boys. He was fifteen at the time, and he and fellow singer Ricky Skaggs became widely respected in the world of bluegrass. In 1983, he moved to Nashville and later signed with RCA Records. At first, he made more contemporary country music. His biggest chart successes during this time included the singles “Ten Feet Away” and “Miami, My Amy.” He also married fellow country singer Lorrie Morgan in 1986.

Whitley asked to have his second full-length studio album shelved, feeling that the music wasn’t really his style. Back then, the concept of labels actually listening to artists and giving them creative control was not so foreign, and the result was the 1988 release Don’t Close Your Eyes. This was a more traditional-sounding album, similar to the music being put out by Randy Travis and George Strait. IN fact, Whitley had previously recorded both “ON the Other Hand,” later a hit single by Travis, and “Nobody in His Right Mind Would Have Left Her,” which became a #1 hit for Strait, on his 1985 album L.a. to Miami. Whitley’s vision for Don’t Close Your Eyes proved successful, as the album produced three #1 singles in 1988 and 1989. These included the title track, “When You Say Nothing at All,” and “I’m no Stranger to the Rain,” all of which have become timeless songs. As a fan, I can say they are three of my favorite country songs of all time. “I’m NO stranger to the Rain” won him his only CMA Award and a Grammy nomination. It was expected that Whitley was on his way to becoming a country superstar.

Untimely Death

One of the biggest reasons for the success and popularity of Keith Whitley was the raw emotion he conveyed in his songs. His last producer stated,

There was no Pro Tools at that point. Pitch accuracy and things like that were important. But someone who could express the emotion and really own the song, so to speak, that counted for a lot. And Keith certainly knew how to do that.

Many modern singers have identified Whitley as the one who taught them to bring out this emotion in their songs, not just to sing, but to tell the story of a character.

But the emotional power in Keith Whitley’s voice came at a high price. despite his musical success, Whitley’s life was troubled. He could express pain so easily in a song because he lived it out. His alcoholism was an ongoing battle, made harder by depression and by the fact he had lost both his brother and father by 1987. The country music community was well aware of his struggles with alcohol and were pulling for him; Keith made the issues quite public, and “I’m NO stranger to the Rain” was written about it. He seemed to be trying to deal with it, but on May 9, 1989, at the age of thirty-four, Whitley died in his home of what was ruled to be alcohol poisoning. His blood alcohol level was stated to be .47, the equivalent of 20 1-ounce shots of 100-proof whiskey. And thus, tragically, Keith Whitley’s career had ended just as it had begun.

Influence

So the question is, after only a handful of hit singles, does Keith Whitley deserve country music’s highest honor? As I stated above, there is no doubt that there are many others also deserving of this recognition, and certainly there are names whose inclusion is long overdue. The problem that arises with Keith Whitley is whether or not his career was impactful and long-lasting enough to warrant him such a distinction. Would he really have been a superstar, or does his legacy elevate his status? Does a career as short as Keith’s merit equal respect and consideration with that of someone like the aforementioned Alan Jackson, who is well-liked by the industry and has been churning out quality and commercially successful music for two decades? What sets Keith Whitley apart from the countless others who charted a small string of hits and then faded into irrelevancy?

The answer is Keith Whitley’s legacy and influence. He continued to produce top 5 singles after his death, and several compilation albums were released. Some of his previously unreleased material would come out in subsequent years, and a tribute album was made in his honor in 1994. Alison Krauss’s version of “When You Say Nothing at all” was released as a single from the tribute album; it became one of her biggest hits and has since been covered by other artists. Whitley is considered to have helped open the door for the class of ’89 which included Jackson, Clint Black, Travis Tritt, and now Hall of Fame member Garth brooks. Garth initially tried to turn down his induction in 2012 because he felt others, including Whitley, deserved to be admitted before him. Tim McGraw, inspired by Keith Whitley’s music and passion, famously arrived in Nashville the day Whitley died and has also cited him as an inspiration for dealing with alcohol issues of his own. Vince Gill began writing “Go Rest High on That Mountain” after Keith’s death, and although Gill finished it several years later following his brother’s passing, the song remains a tribute to Whitley as well; this is embodied in the line, “You weren’t afraid to face the devil, you were no stranger to the rain.” The song won the 1995 Grammy for Best Country Song and has become a standard at funerals and arguably Vince Gill’s signature song. Ironically, Gill said of “Go Rest High on that Mountain” in his own 2009 Hall of Fame induction, “Turns out, if anybody remembers any of my songs, it’ll be this one.”

Keith Whitley is still influencing artists today. Chris Young paid $15,000 for Whitley’s guitar and says Keith influenced his singing. Part of Young’s decision to sign with RCA was that Keith Whitley had been on that label. It’s a shame Chris Young doesn’t take his Whitley-like voice and lend it to less boring songs, but I digress. Other artists, including Miranda Lambert and Dierks Bentley, are said to play the singer’s music regularly. Perhaps the most impressive and telling sign of the impact of Keith Whitley came in 2014 when then seventeen-year-old Jake Worthington, a contestant on NBC’s The Voice, auditioned with “Don’t Close Your Eyes.” Whitley had died years before Jake Worthington was ever born. The performance became a standout of the season and a hallmark moment for Worthington.

It can be argued that Keith Whitley didn’t do enough in his career to be considered for the Hall of Fame. But few can make the impact he did over such a short time. If he had been able to continue making records, he might be a living legend like George Strait. Or maybe he would have faded into obscurity like so many other artists before and after him. But the fact is, none of this happened, and much like Hank Williams and Patsy Cline before him, his tragic death created a legend and a legacy around him. But it takes more than legacy to explain the kind of lasting impact he had and continues to have on country music. It takes a voice like his that could express such raw emotion, to make songs that inspire people twenty-eight years later. It takes an authenticity and vulnerability rarely seen in music. It takes something real and raw that used to be the foundation of country music, the very thing that is disappearing from the airwaves today. It takes a connection so strong that it can make the kind of impression in a few albums that most artists struggle to make in twenty. Keith Whitley lived out the pain in his songs, and it’s that honesty, that part of himself left behind in his music, which transcends the years, influences generations of artists, and has earned him a place among the most elite in country music.

The Petition to Induct Keith Whitley into the Country Music Hall of Fame

In 2015, a group of dedicated Keith Whitley fans drafted a petition for the singer’s induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame. The petition has gained 7,600 signatures so far and states, among other things, that Keith Whitley’s love for and influence of country music should be recognized by the Hall.

Sign the Petition

Billboard Country Airplay and Country Albums Chart (November 28th)

Billboard Country Airplay

1. Chris Young–“I’m Comin’ Over” (up 2)
2. Cole Swindell–“Let Me See Ya Girl”
3. Carrie Underwood–“Smoke Break” (up 1)
4. Dan + Shay–“Nothin’ Like You” (up 1)
5. Blake Shelton–“Gonna” (up 1)
6. Old Dominion–“Break Up With Him” (down 5)
7. Jason Aldean–“Gonna Know We Were Here” (up 1)
8. Tim McGraw–“Top of the World” (up 1)
9. Cam–“Burning House” (up 1)
10. Brothers Osborne–“Stay a Little Longer” (up 1)
11. Thomas Rhett–“Die a Happy Man” (up 1)
12. LoCash–“I Love this Life” (up 2)
13. Parmalee–“Already Callin’ You Mine”
14. Jana Kramer–“I Got the Boy” (up 1)
15. Kelsea Ballerini–“Dibs” (up 2)
16. Big & Rich–“Run Away With You”
17. Sam Hunt–“Break Up in a Small Town” (up 2)
18. Granger Smith–“Back Road Song” (up 2)
19. Randy Houser–“We Went” (down 1)
20. Brad Paisley–“Country Nation” (up 1)
21. Hunter Hayes–“21” (up 1)
22. Zac Brown Band–“Beautiful Drug” (up 1)
23. Chase Bryant–“Little Bit of You” (up 1)
24. A Thousand Horses–(“This Ain’t No) Drunk Dial” (down 1)
25. Keith Urban–“Break On Me” (up 4)
26. Rascal Flatts–“I Like the Sound of That” (up 2)
27. Dierks Bentley–“Riser” (down 1)
28. Lee Brice–“That Don’t Sound Like You” (down 1)
29. Luke Bryan and Karen Fairchild–“Home Alone Tonight” (entering top 30)
30. Eric Church–“Mr. Misunderstood” (entering top 30)

  • new #1: “I’m Comin’ Over” [an actual good song]
  • next week’s #1 prediction: “Smoke Break
  • the atrocity that is “Home Alone Tonight” enters the top 30 this week, along with a good song, Eric Church’s “Mr. Misunderstood”
  • Florida Georgia Line’s “Anything Goes” finally fell from #7 to out of the top 30

Billboard Top Country Albums

1. Chris Stapleton–Traveller
2. Eric Church–Mr. Misunderstood
3. Tim McGraw–Damn Country Music [debut]
4. Carrie Underwood–Storyteller
5. Old Dominion–Meat and Candy [debut]
6. Luke Bryan–Kill the Lights
7. Sam Hunt–Montevallo
8. Blake Shelton–Reloaded: 20 #1 Hits
9. Josh Abbott Band–Front Row Seat
10. Thomas Rhett–Tangled Up
11. Cole Swindell–Down Home Sessions II (EP) [debut]
12. Little Big Town–Painkiller
13. Chris Janson–Buy me a Boat
14. Don Henley–Cass County
15. George Strait–Cold Beer Conversation
16. Hunter Hayes–21 Project
17. Eric Church–The Outsiders
18. Zac Brown Band–Jekyll + Hyde
19. Alan Jackson–Genuine: the Alan Jackson Story
20. Sam Hunt–Between the Pines: Acoustic Mixtape (EP)
21. Florida Georgia Line–Anything Goes
22. Alabama–Southern Drawl
23. Various Artists–Now That’s What I Call Country, Volume 8
24. Jason Aldean–Old Boots, New Dirt
25. Brett Eldredge–Illinois

  • Chris Stapleton enjoys a 2nd week at #1 with Traveller
  • Tim McGraw’s mostly good Damn Country Music debuts at #3
  • Josh Abbott Band’s concept album, Front Row Seat, debuts at #9

Source: Billboard