Tim McGraw

Nashville is a soul-sucker and O brother thank God I found you and blah blah blah stick a needle in my eye. But you know what's truer than a blind two-dollar hen with no teeth (or whatever)? That what I'm not getting right now from the neo-traditionalist set is a terrible amount of emotion. Form? Sure. Respect for the music? Certainly. Creepy songs about oral sex gone awry? Oh, hell yes. Call me a counterrevolutionary or refuse my donations to NPR (please!), but no Will Oldham or Gillian Welch track is moving me these days like Tim McGraw's breezy take on "Tiny Dancer," off his new one that features lots of pictures with chest hair in them. I mean, there's the chest hair guy/English gay guy thing for starters, a friction more stupendous than, say, Smash Mouth/the Monkees. But listen to how tenderly McGraw celebrates his blue jean baby, his L.A. lady dancing in the sand; he sings softly, slowly, and only she and she can hear him, while that creamy-ass slide guitar bumps up the studio bill. "Jesus freaks out in the street" is what he calls the keep-it-realers, "handing tickets out for God." Then Faith Hill turns back and laughs at them, and McGraw admits that the boulevard ain't that bad, which we suspected all along but just weren't courageous enough to believe. Terrible emotion, and better hats, too.
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Mikael Wood