Big Machine Label Group
Release Date: August 21st 2020
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- Chevy Spaceship
- Here On Earth
- Damn Sure Do
- Good Taste In Women
- Hard To Stay Mad At
- Sheryl Crow
- Not From California
- Hold You Tonight
- 7500 OBO
- If I Was A Cowboy
- I Called Mama
- War Of Art
- Truth Is [Target Exclusive track]
- Cuttin’ Onions [Target Exclusive track]
2020 has been the great leveller. The COVID-19 pandemic that has swept through the globe, without favourites and still holds no signs of letting up… has reminded us that we all need to hold onto life and cherish the present moment way more than we already are. We cannot take for granted everything in our lives… because at a moment’s notice, it could all be gone. For me, 2020 was frustrating and heartbreaking to live, and experience and see (to recognise that there’s no foreseeable end in sight!); however, I am somewhat grateful for the time to reflect, recharge and revitalise, which I wouldn’t have had time to do had COVID-19 not been a thing. In no way am I downplaying the virus… but there is a silver lining to the proverbial storm. Or maybe there’s more than one silver lining. Because for me, last year was the year when I ventured the most outside of my comfort zone in terms of music that I listen to. I’ve mentioned this in many blogs previously… but let me say it here again. That because of the downtime I experienced last year, I’m now more open to God speaking through other types of music than I would normally listen to. And this is certainly the case with Tim McGraw’s Here On Earth, his 16th studio album. Now let me say from the outset that I’m not the most avid fan of Tim’s music. Sure, I know who he is and that he’s a big heavyweight in the country music industry… but I just haven’t ventured much into his discography extensively as of yet. I was always overwhelmed and daunted by his 16 albums- I always know he was around and popular though. However with me really liking “Undivided” from a few week’s back; I took a chance on Here On Earth, deciding to work backwards through Tim’s discography. The result is me fully enjoying this project, and deciding to definitely explore Tim’s previous material. While I myself will be more immersed in Tim’s songs within the coming months (as we are blogging about him later!); for now I’m just a casual listener. A casual listener who can’t help but recommend this underrated gem of an album.
Country albums may not be your cup of tea, but there’s a sincerity and calmness and authenticity to Tim’s voice that makes Here On Earth completely relatable. Electric guitar led light ballad “I Called Mama” is the lead single, and immediately dives deep into the heavy issues, as Tim relays to us that importance of grabbing onto life’s key moments as they happen, and before they’re gone. With Tim highlighting that death is always lurking and that anything can happen when you least expect it, the allegory of calling ‘mama’ translates to communicating with your loved ones that you love them and that you appreciate them. Is there a time when you can be too intense and sappy and too needy? Perhaps… but what this year has taught us is that it’s never too late to tell someone you love them ad that you appreciate them for being their true and authentic selves.
The rest of Here On Earth is just as thought-provoking, inspiring and encouraging as the lead single. Even though there’s no explicit mention of Jesus, Tim’s heartfelt storytelling and songwriting ability makes this album essentially inspired by God- in my own opinion. Summery and breezy album opener “L.A.” speaks about Tim’s love for L.A. because of the presence of his wife, reminding us all that our love for people should be placed above our fondness for any particular place (because we only love places because of the people in them right?); while the laid back mid-tempo ballad “Chevy Spaceship” tries to describe a marriage as flying around the solar system, the galaxy and the universe in… a Chevy Spaceship! It’s a weird song, but still brings a smile to my face, as Tim brilliantly relays that a marriage, like a space journey, has ups, downs and bumps along the way, but still is enjoyable and satisfying if we stick to the course and take the good with the bad. The title track, the existential and reflective “Here On Earth”, thematically is like “Life Changes” from Thomas Rhett, is forms the backbone of the album lyrically, with Tim concluding that our quest for meaning and purpose would never stop, but would rather be made more clearer with every passing day and every important milestone added (like being married, having kids), while the emotional acoustic ballad “Damn Sure Do”, reminds us all that despite the screwups that we are, it sure feels good to know that we have someone in our corner supporting us, always- more often than not our spouse. “Hallelujahville”, an ode to Tim and wife Faith’s hometown, reminds us that there’s something special about being at home and being surrounded by nostalgic and sentimental memories that make us cry and appreciate the good times; while I myself didn’t connect with the rocker “Good Taste In Women”, whereby Tim brags about his good taste in women- a track that to me feel unnecessary amongst the 18-song tracklist.
Yet like the name of the next track “Hard To Stay Mad At”, it’s hard to stay mad at Tim McGraw, even after a downer of a song- as this next song relays that it is difficult to be forever mad at your spouse or at your family, as blood indeed is thicker than water, and a bond so strong isn’t that easy to break. With Tim outlining that fights shouldn’t be drawn out for so long; we are reminded that even though fights make us stronger, we mustn’t hold onto grudges as it’ll destroy us from the inside. The quirky, fun and energetic rocker “Sheryl Crow” is next, as Tim compares his everlasting love with wife Faith to his love for a Sheryl Crow album (which I presume is Tim’s favourite artist aside from his wife?); while the melancholy and somewhat depressing piano led “Not From California”, delves into Tim being in a different stage of life to his friends or his family, and him lamenting their disconnect and inability to have anything in common. It’s a sad track, but a fact that occurs when people lose common interests, and relationships (either romantic or platonic) are fractured because of circumstances beyond our control. That doesn’t invalidate the relationship… it just makes things all the more bittersweet then dwelling upon it, as we decide whether to try to be close as before or to leave that relationship in the past.
“Hold You Tonight”, a reverent and sombre ballad, recounts how Tim sings about an ex, and gives her permission to ‘find herself’ before they decide on resuming their relationship or calling it quits (a fact that is as heartbreaking and more than common in Hollywood these days)- and is a song that doesn’t necessary champion splitting up because of differing likes and dislikes, but rather reminds us that people are complex and a break up can occur because of many different reasons. Tim also laments in “7500 OBO” about a truck he needs to sell for $7500 or best offer, because of the truck reminding him of an ex he’s still not over as Tim lets us know that holding onto pieces of the past and sentimental objects can be good for us, but at times can be extremely unhealthy. Mid-tempo guitar led ballad “If I Was A Cowboy” reminds us that breakups are easier if we are a lone-wolf or hermit type of person (which is literally impossible, as relationships form the basis of living and being completely content and satisfied); while the existential and appreciative “Gravy” has Tim thanking God for the bare essentials in life (wife, kids, food, shelter, bed, electricity, water, cable TV), and then declaring that ‘…everything else is gravy…’.
By now, the album can somewhat meander along- because there isn’t much variety musically in Here On Earth. You have the stronger tracks near the beginning, and the middle sort of is just… there, enjoyable yet nothing ground-breaking and ‘wow’. “War Of Art”, though, is a song that is a must listen. Musically similar to the preceding 14 tracks before it (light acoustic guitar ballads), lyrically, this track is as deep as you get, as Tim relays that staying true to your art is difficult in a world of businesses and profits and corporate people trying to get you to say whatever they want you to say. It’s a fine line for artists like Tim to be true to himself as well as sell albums aplenty- and “War Of Art” beautifully encapsulates this dichotomy and this walking the proverbial tightrope quite well. “Doggone” ends a musically confusing album- as Tim lets out a clean curse word and declares that he misses his wife and that he loves her.
I had high hopes for Tim McGraw… yet Here On Earth isn’t it musically. Lyrically this album is top notch, and still packs a punch, as Tim eloquently reminds us of all of the intricacies of life, and that this life is worth living along with all of its ups and downs. Yet the track list is too long… and because of the musical sameness, I feel that Here On Earth works in part. As cherry picking the songs you love and then listening to them on Spotify. Yet this album though does want to make me investigate Tim’s albums a whole lot more. But for people who have no exposure to Tim’s music, should this be the album you listen to first? Depends… maybe. If you like breezy, laid back ethereal, acoustic type ballads, then Here On Earth is for you. If not, then I’d say still check out this album- but maybe listen in ‘shuffle’ mode? Nothing wrong with the songs, but I’m someone who says that order is important. The official order of Here On Earth is…. Lacking? But enough of my musings. What do you think of here On Earth? Are you a fan of Tim’s for life?
4 songs to listen to: Chevy Spaceship, Here On Earth, Hallelujahville, I Called Mama
RIYL: Blake Shelton, Keith Urban, Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, Runaway June, Maddie & Tae, Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, Thomas Rhett