“Don’t Take the Girl” by Tim McGraw

Tim McGraw would eventually grow into arguably the greatest Country singer of his era, but his very first hit, the extremely tasteless “Indian Outlaw”, made him seem like little more than another photogenic purveyor of Pop-Country novelty songs. This was particularly bad for his image because Country music already had an artist on the scene that fit that description…Billy Ray Cyrus…and was in the process of getting rid of him because he was intolerably awful. But with this song, which was McGraw’s second hit, he showed what he was really capable of, what would eventually make him the reigning King of the Pop-Country era. The actual sound of this song was more Adult Contemporary than Country, but like all of McGraw’s greatest work, the sensibility and emotional content were rooted in the fundamentals of the Classic Country genre. It’s a beautifully written song, with an open appeal to emotion that could reduce almost anyone to tears and a circular structure that articulates a profound wisdom about the patterns of life. The music video for this song seems to have indicated that the ‘girl’ survives the events of the third verse and chorus, but the song is all the more powerful for not answering that question either way. Granted, McGraw still sings the song in the nasal whine of his early career (something he would grow out of by his peak), but that’s about the only thing that separates this from the greatest work of his peak period. It would be another three years before everything McGraw released would be on this level (indeed, he wouldn’t really equal this song until his 1997 album Everywhere), but this was an early sign that this young up-and-comer was more than just a second Billy Ray Cyrus, and indeed was something truly special.

Verdict: An immortal Country classic.

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