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Album Spotlight: Tim McGraw, ‘Sundown Heaven Town’ – ToC Critic’s Pick

Tim McGraw
Big Machine Nashville

In looking forward, Tim McGraw turned backward during the building and recording of ‘Sundown Heaven Town.’ Many of the 13 tracks recall some of his biggest hits of the last 20 years and do so without feeling dusty.

‘Shotgun Rider’ rambles along like ‘Just to See You Smile’ did in 1997. This is a pure love song that relies on vibe instead of lyrical ingenuity.

The opening of ‘City Lights’ recalls ‘Red Ragtop’ from 2002. McGraw clips along to a restrained cadence, punctuating his verses as he compares himself to his love: “I’m a cigarette burnin’ slow on a summer night / She’s city lights,” he sings.

Some may remember ‘I Need You’ as the singer and cousin Catherine Dunn trade lyrics on ‘Diamond Rings and Old Bar Stools.’ While his soul cries later during ‘Portland, Maine,’ this exchange is the most effective ballad on the album.

‘Dust’ doesn’t sound like anything from McGraw’s catalog, but it calls out David Lee Murphy‘s hit ‘Dust on the Bottle,’ so it succeeds in keeping the nostalgia faucet wide open.

“Everything I know, everything I love / Covered up in dust,” he sings to close the chorus.

Of course, ‘Meanwhile Back at Mama’s’ is the ultimate nostalgia song. ‘Sundown Heaven Town’ is filled with mid-tempo ramblers that tug hard at your emotions. The star pushes his sound forward with tracks like ‘Keep on Truckin” and especially ‘Lookin’ for That Girl.’ ‘Words Are Medicine’ makes a statement of a different sort. Instead of storytelling, one finds McGraw preaching positivity here. The weight of this song isn’t for everyone, but there’s plenty on the singer’s 13th album to unify.

Key Tracks: ‘Overrated,’ ‘Shotgun Rider,’ ‘Meanwhile Back at Mama’s,’ ‘Diamond Rings and Old Bar Stools’

Kid Rock Fan?: McGraw loves the Detroit-raised rap-rocker, admitting he has a ton of respect for him. He also admits that during his rowdier days, he spent a long, long, night partying with Kid Rock and ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons. They played just about every classic rock song you can imagine. Rock appears on ‘Lincoln Continentals and Cadillacs’ on the deluxe edition of this album.

Did You Know?: McGraw says ‘Words Are Medicine’ is the most important song on ‘Sundown Heaven Town.’

How Well Do You Know Tim McGraw?

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