With a title like Damn Country Music, you would probably expect a traditional, perhaps even conventional release from renowned country artist Tim McGraw. True, McGraw is a country veteran, having been releasing music for over two decades and boasting 14 studio albums to his name. But his latest release is an interesting move away from the traditional which sees McGraw pushing the parameters of contemporary country music.
Flavoured by 80s-style choppy guitar riffs and snappy snare drums, the album revels in its own slick production value. The songs have been deliberately engineered to walk the fine line between pop and country – the ballad Want You Back for instance, which combines standard country heartbreak sentiment with a blistering guitar solo and catchy opening hooks – and although McGraw has a tendency to fall back on tried-and-true country music cliches, he does explore some interesting instrumental territory. Chord progressions are often all too predictable but they are executed with flair, peppered with clean-toned slide guitar and underpinned by up-tempo drumbeats.
The album’s strength lies in the sheer flexibility with which McGraw imbues the country genre. Opening with a Celtic-inspired duet with his daughter Gracie, who has clearly inherited her father’s dazzling vocal chops, McGraw meanders through moments of electronic influence (Losin’ You), experiments with a rapid-fire vocal delivery (Everybody’s Looking) and errs on the side of radio-friendly cater to the masses pop music. Through it all McGraw skilfully invokes an unmistakeable sense of stone cold country-and-western stoicism, harking back to the success of his earlier work whilst simultaneously breaking defiantly through the boundaries of the genre.