Tim McGraw ends up as the butt of my criticism many times. I have given Tim grief for always chasing trends and not being the most original artist. But credit is due where credit is due, and lately, Tim has been a part of the solution, not the problem. Lately, as country has taken a turn towards the traditional fare again, here is Tim with some traditional singles. I’m not complaining, but I stand by the fact that Tim is a follower, not a leader. The bottom line simply comes to the point that no matter what the reasoning, we are getting some good work from Tim McGraw. “Meanwhile Back At Mama’s” was a bright spot on the radio last year, and “Shotgun Rider” wasn’t bad either. But, Tim has now released the best song from his latest album, Sundown Heaven Town, to radio. “Diamond Rings and Old Barstools” is simply a great country song.
The song lyrics are full of sadness and regret, more so than any song on radio right now. It hearkens back to an old country music tradition of compare and contrast. Not to get all English teacher on you, but this is a method that can really drive home a feeling when used in the correct way. We used to see stuff like this all the time. Now, not so much... but its great to have it back. The “barstool” line is one that we’ve heard a million times in country music, yet it is still an effective way to paint a picture of sorrow or regret. Barry Dean and Luke Laird did a great job of writing a song that said the most with little. That's the key to making great country songs.
This song also sounds great. It has a moody, bluesy guitar that is very soft and subdued, letting the lyrics do the talking. Add in the steel guitar and you’ve got yourself a genuine country song, by golly. It really sounds very different from anything else on radio right now, but I’m sure if that will help it be a hit, or keep it from listeners' fragile ears. Tim has never had the biggest voice or been the most prolific note-hitter, but in a mellow, warm song like this, Tim sounds fantastic. This is right up his alley. He enlists a new talent, Catherine Dunn, who happens to be Tim’s cousin, on the record to sing harmony. She adds a great layer of depth to the storyline of the song, as you here both members of the couple mourning the lost love. She also happens to be incredibly talented. I hope to hear more from her in the future.
Maybe I don’t give Tim enough credit. For a guy who has recorded some real stinkers, he has a lot of great tunes as well. I once said in a review that at this point in his career, Tim has two options: He can totally sell-out, make crappy music that isn’t him, and make some money as his artistic merit goes out the window, or he can stick to his guns, record some real music, and fade off the mainstream map with dignity, like George Strait. Well, Tim is doing both. He has put out some great songs recently, and he is still making his money and having hits. Good for him. Maybe I retract some of my previous criticisms of Tim’s intentions. The bottom line remains that “Diamond Rings And Old Barstools” is a great song, it’s an actual country song, and it’s headed for spins on your radio all across the nation. What’s not to like about that?