Tim McGraw's two big breakout hits – the novelty song "Indian Outlaw" and the schmaltzy ballad "Don't Take the Girl" – were so awful, they could almost be considered parodies of country music. (The rest of the album on which they appeared, Not a Moment Too Soon, was much better.) Thankfully, McGraw has grown considerably as an artist since these early days, and much of Let It Go has a surprisingly dark, weary tone.
In sharp contrast to country songs which celebrate the long-distance trucker's life, McGraw's "I'm Workin'" effectively conveys the loneliness and danger of that line of work: "All these truckers out here drive with one hand on the wheel and a cell phone to their ear /Apologizing for something they missed or can't get to I'm sorry to my dear /Yeah but that's the way it goes and we sure need the money /his life of ours is far from perfect ain't it honey."
"Between the River and Me" is even darker, with the singer narrating the story of how he murdered his abusive stepfather. Even the obligatory duet with wife Faith Hill, "I Need You," contains the unforgettable lyric, "I Need You like a needle needs a vein."
Of course, Let It Go has its lighter moments. The upbeat first single, "Last Dollar (Fly Away)" even features a children's chorus (McGraw and Hill's own children?) at the end. But the most memorable tracks are those in which McGraw sounds like he has the weight of the world on his shoulders, and some would say that's what country music should be.
(Note to my fellow Atlantic Canadians: Tim n' Faith are bringing their "Soul2Soul" tour to Moncton this Labour Day weekend.)