Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
The lead-off track from Tim McGraw's ninth album may sum up his attitude at this point in his music career - "How Bad Do You Want It?" McGraw sings on the bluesy song "if you want it all you've got to lay it all out on the line." McGraw has been wildly successful for many years, but he does not seem very content to repeat himself. That became evident with his last album, "Tim McGraw and the Dancehall Doctors," where he recorded the entire disc in upstate New York with his regular band. And he did it again this time out as well.
McGraw, who does no writing as usual, is surrounded by many heartfelt, downer type songs. Probably none more than "Kill Myself," about as down and out a song as one could imagine. The hit single title track also has blue themes, with the protagonist giving advice of living life the right way in the face of bad news. "Drugs or Jesus" is a black and white song where people in a nowheresville town choose one or the other.
"Can't Tell Me Nothing'," previously recorded by Travis Tritt, is about a guy with a strong independent streak as evidenced by buying a beat up '86 Harley and getting it run right and marrying his hometown sweetheart. As he does elsewhere, McGraw is in very fine vocal form, perhaps the best overall singing of his career. The songs are more country oriented than recent efforts. McGraw lets the 16 (!) songs come to him, instead of overdoing it. He breathes sadness into the Bruce Robison/Darrell Scott's "Old Town New" about a guy upset about a breakout.
McGraw must be commended for recording such a group of meaty songs lyrically without going for obvious radio ready choices. Of course, he could have gone commercial given his track record. McGraw has made the choice to blaze his own trail in recent years. Apparently, he still wants it real bad.