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 411mania » Music » Album Reviews

Tim McGraw – Tim McGraw And The Dancehall Doctors
Posted by Mitch Michaels on 12.18.2002

I love Garth Brooks. I think No Fences is the greatest country album of all time. (And I love Johnny Cash, so don’t start.) When Garth Brooks broke huge in the US, country music was everywhere. He released Ropin’ The Wind and it debuted at #1 on both Billboard’s Country and Pop charts, a first ever. And then you started hearing that word. Pop Crossover. It was in every magazine article and interview. And why not? Country was popular now. Garth Brooks was popular. Just like the New TNN, Garth Brooks was pop. It’s not like this was a new thing. Glen Campbell, Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton and Elvis Presley have all had simultaneous hits on the pop and country charts. And Garth Brooks was just the world’s new mega-star. But Garth Brooks brought pop to country. And it was good for the industry. These days, that word is everywhere. The country boom ended and now anytime a country artist has a good deal of success, the industry throws out that word again. Like having a country hit isn’t enough. You have to have that “pop crossover”. LeAnn Rimes has all but abandoned Patsy Cline and country. Shania Twain is an eastern mystic and makes Michael Jackson-level absurd videos. Lee Ann Womack traded in Dolly Parton for pop and a Britney Spears makeover. The Dixie Chicks cover Fleetwood Mac with Faith Hill on VH1 (The Chicks have done it their way, though.) So can no country artist have success without having the need to leave?

The answer is yes, and one of those men is Tim McGraw. After breaking into the charts in 1994 with the fun “Indian Outlaw”, Tim McGraw stepped up not too long ago to become THE country star. While Garth Brooks went AWOL and everybody rested, Tim McGraw sold over 19 million albums in his 9-year career and finally took his place at number one. And with that success, Tim McGraw has followed it all up with this new album, Tim McGraw And The Dancehall Doctors, an album that doesn’t build on his “pop” fan base, but just keeps on doing what got him to this point: making good country music.

The Album
On November 27, 2002, Tim McGraw released Tim McGraw And The Dancehall Doctors, his seventh studio album since his Curb debut Tim McGraw in 1993. Since then, McGraw has enjoyed a great deal of success with fun and rocking singles like “Down On The Farm” and “I Like It, I Love It” and country ballads like “Please Remember Me” and “It’s Your Love”(with his pop sell-out, Janis Joplin defacing wife Faith Hill). This album is his latest since 2000’s double platinum Set This Circus Down and triple platinum Greatest Hits. The name of the album is for McGraw’s road band The Dancehall Doctors, who accompany him for the first time on this studio album. That’s a nice touch since most country artists prefer to enlist studio musicians for their albums. This record is definitely a country record and a Tim McGraw record with lots of great songs, some fun romps and country love songs. McGraw doesn’t seem to deviate much from his usual proven formula here, and why should he?

The Price: 9
I bought this CD at Wal-Mart for only $9.84 the week after it came out. You cannot argue with a great CD for less than $10. Also, both Target and Best Buy tried to charge me over $14 for it, so Wal-Mart is my cheap CD price winner of the week. Watch as Target’s empire crumbles!

Album Artwork: 6
I always liked Tim’s last album Set This Circus Down because of its cool big top painting on the cover. It was a nice change of pace from the usual country vanity head shot. Tim defied convention this time around, too, with a big close-up of his chin and neck. Keep bucking the system, Tim. The CD bothers me a bit because the cover and sides say “Tim McGraw” with “And The Dancehall Doctors” only written on the inside tray. Speaking of the tray, it is absolutely gross with a picture of half of a shirtless Tim McGraw’s very hairy chest. The inside of the booklet is nice, with lots of pictures and artwork pertaining to the songs. There are also lyrics and pictures and notes from each member of the Dancehall Doctors. Nice touch, but the chest haunts my dreams at night.

The Band: 8
Tim McGraw: vocals
Bill Mason: drums
Darran Smith: electric guitar
Dean Brown: mandolin, fiddle
John Marcus: bass
Denny Hemingson: steel guitar, mellobar, baritone guitar, guitars
David Dunkley: percussion
Jeff McMahon: keys
Bob Minner: dobro, guitars

Including his road band might be Tim McGraw’s first good decision for this album. Not to knock Nashville’s wonderful session players, but it’s the unity in the instrumentation that sets this album apart from other things you hear on country radio today. These guys have toured with Tim McGraw for a long time and they know Tim McGraw’s sound. They play very well together and hearing this album is like a breath of fresh autumn mountain air. McGraw and Doctor Darran Smith share production credits with regular McGraw producer Byron Gallimore.

The Songs: 8
1. Comfort Me
2. Tickin’ Away
3. Home
4. Red Ragtop
5. That’s Why God Made Mexico
6. Watch The Wind Blow By
7. Illegal
8. Sleep Tonight
9. I Know How To Love You Well
10. Sing Me Home
11. She’s My Kind Of Rain
12. Who Are They?
13. Real Good Man
14. All We Ever Find
15. Tiny Dancer

With country singers who don’t write their own songs, you can usually expect some filler on their albums. The song selection for Tim McGraw And The Dancehall Doctors, though, is really quite good. Some songs are just throwaway fun, of course, like “Real Good Man”. But Tim McGraw has always thrived on having fun with his fans. However, a lot of songs on this album run much deeper. “Comfort Me” is a tribute to the sights and natural beauty of America, without the 9/11 heartstring pulling that pops up everywhere these days. “Red Ragtop”, the album’s first single, talks about regrets by using a relationship soured by abortion. “Sleep Tonight” can easily be interpreted as a letter to a lover or a tribute to Tim McGraw’s own concert fans. “Illegal” is a country rocker that could easily have been torn from the Eagles’ songbook. A cover of Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” is a mixed bag. Hearing the song get the country treatment is a novelty, and Tim McGraw doesn’t try to sound like anybody but himself, with only a few attempts at Sir Elton’s British drawl. The song has me until the chorus kicks in. Other songs of note on the album are “Home”, the second chances cry in your beer song “Tickin’ Away”, and the establishment bashing “Who Are They?”

The 411: If you liked Tim McGraw’s previous albums, you will love this one. This album is set apart from McGraw’s previous efforts by the music made by his longtime road band and it’s McGraw’s best yet. If you are a fan of country music or good music at all, Tim McGraw And The Dancehall Doctors isn’t a bad investment. If for anything, just to tell the industry that we’d rather have more of this kind of music than another “Pop Version” of some country soccer mom diva.
Final Score:  8.0   [ Very Good ]  legend


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