Dammit, McGraw – with guys like Chesney and Paisley coasting, Toby artistically out to pasture, and young(er) guns like Josh Turner and Dierks Bentley revvin’ their engines, we rely on a sure’n’steady guy like you to step your game up in 2007, especially after being reminded by parts of your last hits record that in plenty of ways your art’s gettin’ richer and richer with time (the saccharine “My Little Girl” allowed ’cause, well, you’ve got three of ’em at home). So what do ya do but kick off your newest album with one-two-count-’em-three straight duds, not just leadoff single “Last Dollar” (you haven’t been this trite in nearly a decade, Tim) but the painfully literal “I’m Workin'” and the whole-lotta-nothing title track, “Let It Go.” C’mon!
(Track four, “Whiskey and You,” is not great shakes either.)
And them damned if you don’t turn things around hard, hairpin-turn-like, starting with your cover of Eddie Rabbitt’s great, underrated “Suspicions.” This is one of the all-time finest songs about a lover’s paranoia, and you give it an appropriately modest update – it’s not quite a note-for-note, but it’s close enough to not piss off the purists, at the same time with enough of your own flavor on the track to make it yours. (Your voice is rougher than Rabbitt’s, but what’s lost in cool clarity is gained in passionate grit.)
From that point on, Let It Go pretty much rules as it rolls through tracks 6-12, only faltering on the closing false-ringing “Shotgun Rider.” The oughta-write-a-song “Kristofferson” works incredibly well, especially considering that you don’t write any of your own material. (Like King George, you generally know how to pick ’em, Tim.) “Put Your Lovin’ on Me” is a ragged-around-the-edges rough love song that “hot country” radio probably wouldn’t know what to do with, but it’s great. “Between the River and Me” is a hard revenge tale, very “down by the holler,” very you, and all-around excellent, and the duet with wifey Faith, “I Need You,” with its “like a needle needs a vein” refrain, hits hard to the heart; aside from the genius of “Like We Never Loved At All,” it’s the best collab the two of you’ve cut yet.
Tim, you haven’t yet made a great album, but you continue to make better albums – and again, your art’s growing in proverbial leaps. (Couldja rub some o’ that off on the Missus, please? Even you can’t honestly say you loved Fireflies, can you?) Let It Go is solid if not superb, and damn you can sing. I dobut you will, but just in case: don’t ever quit, McGraw. We need stand-up studs like you in country music. B