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Album Review: Tim McGraw – Standing Room Only

2 min read

Three-time Grammy Award-winning country superstar Tim McGraw is back with his 16th solo studio album, Standing Room Only, his fifth release with the Big Machine label.  McGraw believes this album contains some of the most emotional, thought-provoking, life-affirming music he’s recorded during his thirty years (plus) in the Country music game.

Getting straight into it, Hold on to It is an upbeat, catchy opener, reminiscent of some of the better tracks from a turn of the century McGraw album.  It showcases lyrical depth amidst the plucky guitar and banjo work, pleading with the listener to fight to keep the love they’ve found.  As Tim warns, ‘Love only hurts when you lose it’.   The title track, Standing Room Only, follows – a ballad that wouldn’t look out of place on Everywhere, followed by the unapologetically Country Paper Umbrellas, a story of post-breakups and failing to drink away the pain, as ‘Paper Umbrellas […] won’t stop the rain’.

Remember Me Well pairs particularly well with the subsequent track, Hey Whiskey, which (for me) sees the album move towards more emotive, introspective songs for McGraw, reflecting on the consequences of his excessive drinking (McGraw has been sober since 2008), ‘Hey Whiskey, what did I ever do to you?’  Tracks six and eight, Her and Small Town King, are straight down the line heavyweight country songs – personal but upbeat, meaningful and melodic.  These tracks are bisected by the downtempo Fool Me Again, while Beautiful Hurricane follows up with a perfect slow-dance track.  Cowboy Junkie feels like it’s been lifted from McGraw’s ‘best of’ back catalogue, championing the happiness of enduring love, while country icon Lori McKenna features in Nashville CA/L.A. Tennessee (one of her two writing credits on the album) – a tender song about a couple separated geographically.  Some Songs Change Your World is a definite hit-in-waiting, with an elongated outro that rounds off the song in style.  Finally, we have Letter from Heaven which, in my opinion, is the best of the album.  It’s a beautifully written track about families and forgiveness that has an exceptionally personal and emotional feel to it.

Don’t let the upbeat beginning of Standing Room Only fool you; much of this album is heart-wrenching, emotive and meaningful in the best possible way.  McGraw continues to produce music of the highest quality thirty years on, and this album pairs poignant lyrics with addictive melodies.  This results in deep, thought provoking verses and choruses that make you reach for the volume dial to crank it up.  This is a mature country album for grown-ups who have experienced life; you can really relate to the broad range of feelings that McGraw allows the listener to access, with a real sense that he is just as vulnerable and hopeful as the rest of us fragile, complex mortals.

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