Tim McGraw has scored more than 50 top 10 hits on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart during the last 20 years. On Sept. 16, the singer rolls out Sundown Heaven Town, his 13th studio album. On the disc, co-produced by McGraw and longtime collaborator Byron Gallimore, the singer stretches a little more than usual — and takes a few musical chances. Read on for a track-by-track review of the country star’s Sundown Heaven Town.
“Overrated” – Opening up with a little bit of banjo, McGraw scores on the lead-off track with a song that starts a little bit organic and picks up from a production level. However, the lyrics of the song — about love being the main thing that you need — keep this track on the homey side.
“City Lights” – One thing is apparent on Sundown Heaven Town is that McGraw shows off his Louisiana twang a little more than we might be accustomed to. That’s not to say that this is a “retro” album, but this traditional-laden cut is one of his best moments on the entire record. This is a single release for sure.
“Shotgun Rider” – Just released as the new single from the disc, it’s the perfect mix of old-school McGraw with some stirring steel guitar work and a few new sounds with some nifty guitar riffs. The song is a tribute to finding that special someone, and cherishing that relationship.
“Dust” – As the album goes along, the arrangements get a little more involved. This has some of the same production elements that is employed by such acts as Jason Aldean and Florida Georgia Line. It takes a few listens to get it, but this is a surefire bet for radio.
“Diamond Rings and Old Barstools” – This might be the crowning moment of the disc. It’s high on emotional drama, high on steel, and high on some outstanding harmony from McGraw’s cousin Catherine Dunn — who proves there’s more talent in the family genetic pool.
“Words Are Medicine” – One of the most intriguing cuts on the album, it’s a little bit wordy — but, after all, it’s a song about words. The verses take a little bit of attention away from the choruses — but when you get the hook of the song, you will be the better for it. It’s one of the country star’s top contemporary performances.
“Sick Of Me” – When one looks at their life, there’s a lot that they might not like. But, the biggest step toward healing is when you realize that the recovery that you need begins with….yourself. One of his most introspective lyrics of his career.
“Meanwhile Back At Mama’s” – His performance of this emotional ode to a simpler way of life with wife Faith Hill was one of the most talked-about performances at the ACM Awards back in April, and helped to earn the duo a pair of CMA nominations as well. Some pairings are just natural, and the McGraw-Hill vocal partnership works as well today as ever.
“Keep On Truckin” – McGraw channels a little bit of a funky side on this cut, which is simply 3:06 minutes of roll-down-the-window bliss. And that’s something we all need from time to time.
“Last Turn Home” – In listening to this track about a man returning to the arms of a loved one, the ballads of Don Henley come to mind. The lyrics — about the love of a good woman being harbor for a crazy life — definitely help McGraw soar into the stratosphere with this one.
“Portland Maine” – There’s a bit of a weathered side to McGraw that we don’t know if he could have pulled off quite as effectively on his first couple of records. It’s a powerful lyric about a man who is caught between what is easier and what is the right thing to do. Could be in the running for the CMA single of the year in 2015.
“Lookin’ For That Girl” – McGraw shows a lot of swagger on this cut with a cool groove, which was the single before “Meanwhile Back At Mama’s” exploded post-ACM Awards.
“Still On The Line” – One of the most pop-filled arrangements on the disc, the power ballad about realizing that person still has a hold on you could very well be one song that encourages fans to roll out the cell phone lights on his 2015 tour.
“Lincoln Continentals and Cadillacs” – The singer brings out the firepower with Kid Rock joining the action on this one. It’s got a lot of flash to it, a lot of soul and a lot of bad-ass from start to finish. But, with Bobby Ritchie, would you expect anything else? Sometimes, one doesn’t need to save the world. This is one of those times, as this was meant to be heard played often — and LOUD!
“Kids Today” – OK, it’s been well established that there’s a lot of nostalgia on the album. Maybe that stems from the fact that McGraw’s daughters are growing up very quickly. The song offers a great sentiment that the more things change, sometimes they stay the same.
“I’m Feelin’ You” – Romantic and sensual with a beat that would make the Brothers Gibb proud. The production is tight, and the beat dances off of the speakers. The guitar work is worth the price of admission alone.
“The View” – It’s got a party vibe, and has a contemporary pop edge which makes for an entertaining track. Big Machine hasn’t tried a crossover with McGraw yet — but this could be it.
“Black Jacket” – For Sundown Heaven Town’s finale, the singer channels a sorrowful tint as he recalls the good times in a relationship while wondering why things didn’t work out. Sometimes, there are no answers. But, it really doesn’t sound like McGraw wants to make amends as much as he just wants to put the past behind him and move on from the pain.