When you’re 48 years old, Tim McGraw isn’t exactly a spring bird, and his albums aren’t exactly selling very well these days, either. His most recent album, Damn Country Music, barely sold 39,000 copies in its first week of release and has failed to reach the milestone of 100,000 sales. Sundown Heaven Town, which he released in 2014, may not be a gold record for him.
Nonetheless, Tim McGraw is one of the last remaining artists who has the freedom to put out whatever he wants to radio, including music that actually says something and is appropriate for consumption by fully matured adults, and it manages to gain not only some recognition and acceptance, but also outright success in the process. You may blame Tim McGraw’s long-standing connection with country radio, or you can blame Big Machine Records’ enormous radio marketing budget. In any case, the sinewy country artist serves as a kind of chaperone for country music’s young movement, and he represents one of the few remaining traces of meaningful music on corporate country radio, no matter how adult contemporary it may seem at times.
It’s very astounding, in fact. Among the hits from Sundown Heaven Town were “Meanwhile Back At Mama’s,” “Shotgun Rider,” and “Diamond Rings and Old Barstools,” all of which reached the top three on radio charts. And each of them was one of the finest things to come out of radio during their time on the air. In spite of the fact that it was meant to be the major hit, “Lookin’ For That Girl” was the one that failed to take off.
Tim McGraw has taken this information into consideration and has decided that the second single from Damn Country Music will be the immensely mature “Humble and Kind. Consider this for a moment: at an age when songwriting was done by committee, the song “Humble and Kind” was composed entirely by Lori McKenna, a 48-year-old songwriter, on her own. Rather than being the second single from the album, a song like “Humble and Kind” is designed to be the last song on the album for those who have the patience to listen all the way through.
This move is surprising, just like the quality of Sundown Heaven Town and Damn Country Music was surprising. And I would bet dollars to donuts “Humble and Kind” ends up being another successful radio move. A video for the song released first to Facebook has already racked up millions of views (a more common move these days to help drive metadata stats). Yes, the video is sappy. Apparently Oprah Winfrey had some involvement in it, and McGraw has always been too enamored with his own silhouette when he’s sporting his plastic cowboy hat. But all of that is beside the point.
When I first heard “Humble and Kind,” I immediately thought of Don Williams. In the fast-paced environment today’s world, the music of Don Williams is like a compass to guide you to appreciating the value of slowing down and taking life in, and that’s what “Humble and Kind” does. Sure it’s quite dry, and maybe even kind of preachy. But “Humble and Kind” is full of lessons we all know, but must be reminded of on a daily basis in these turbo-charged times. And it tends to fall to the artists of an era to teach them.
READ: Album Review Tim McGraw’s “Damn Country Music”
Tim McGraw has made plenty of money, and enjoyed more than his fair share of success in his career. He doesn’t need anything else from the music to either validate his existence, or financially support his family for the future. But what Tim McGraw understands is that reaching millions through the power of country music comes with a responsibility. And not only is he willing to shoulder that responsibility, he’s committed to seeing it be effective.