Will it be Standing Room Only for Tim McGraw’s new album?

new album from tim mcgraw
Standing Room Only is out on Friday

Paul Lewis took a preview spin around the album and had this to say about the much-anticipated new record from the three-time Grammy® Award winning country superstar:

Tim McGraw first came onto my radar in 1999 when “Something Like That” from his 4th album,  “A Place In The Sun” made it onto what little country radio there was here at the time (pretty much two shows on BBC Radio 2). His terrific voice and a terrific song that, once heard, you just couldn’t get out of your head, made it one of the songs of my year, and a favourite to this day.

Twenty-four years and 12 albums since have brought a multitude of classic McGraw songs, songs such as “Live Like You Were Dying”, “Set This Circus Down”, “Angry All The Time”, “That’s Why God Made Mexico”, “When The Stars Go Blue”, “Nashville Without You” and “Humble & Kind”. But it’s always been about the songs for me, albums were less consistent, perhaps because he writes very little himself; so while strong material is never in short supply in Nashville, the results can feel like another collection of Tim McGraw songs rather than a coherent album with a distinct identity.

The albums have been at their best when they have that sense of coherence: “Set This Circus Down” and his 2020 last album, “Here On Earth”, being prime examples. “Here On Earth” had a kind of Glen Campbell/Jimmy Webb vibe running through,  and was something of a pleasant surprise after a number of “another Tim McGraw album” albums, if always consistent and featuring several outstanding songs. 

And so to album number 17, “Standing Room Only”… it doesn’t have the coherent sense of identity of “Here On Earth”, but it’s definitely one of his strongest collections. 

The opening “Hold Onto It” is classic sounding McGraw. It’s nothing exceptional but it’s a good solid start. That leads into “Standing Room Only” an early single release from the project and a song widely seen as lyrically reminiscent of “Live Like You Were Dying”, a stone cold McGraw classic and arguably a classic of modern country. It’s also therefore related by subject to Cody Johnson’s wonderful “Til You Can’t” – but unfortunately, sentiments aside, “Standing Room Only” is just not as good as either song. 

Things take a strong turn with track three, “Paper Umbrellas” a terrific track,  again reminiscent of Glen Campbell and sounding like a relation to “Gentle on My Mind” in particular. It’s a high point of the whole album and notably co-written by one of the huge successes of this year’s C2C, Drake Milligan. 

It’s followed by “Remember Me Well” a pleasant enough song, lifted by an excellent guitar coda, leading into recent single “Hey Whiskey” which seems somewhat predictable – another, unremarkable whiskey song, which the world perhaps really doesn’t need.

Other highlights include two Lori McKenna (Humble & Kind) co-writes: the excellent “Nashville CA/L.A. Tennessee”  co-written by Lori, Tim & Bob Minner, featuring Lori herself on vocals and the kind of very strong lyric Lori is noted for. And “Letter From Heaven” another beautifully crafted, if inevitably very sentimental lyric about a letter found in a late mother’s house. There’ll be a lot of personal taste in reactions to that closing song, but there’s no denying the craft.

“Cowboy Junkie” is another album highlight, one of those terrific McGraw earworms that you’ll have in your head for days (definitely in a good way!). “Fool Me Again” is another fine song, with terrific guitar work in the background, “Small Town Kings” could well prove a grower, and “Some Songs Change Your World” is pleasant if something of a clichéd sentiment, saved by another tremendous, and lengthy, guitar coda. 

tim mcgraw album review
Tim McGraw – photo credit Robby Klein

Overall while “Standing Room Only” doesn’t have a particularly coherent and distinct character as an album, six or seven songs are strong enough to demand repeat listening, and at least four would sit comfortably on any McGraw mixtape of his finest work. So it’s potentially one of Tim’s stronger and most consistent efforts across his long career. It may not bring in many new listeners, but if you enjoy his work, this won’t let you down.

“Standing Room Only” is released this Friday, August 25, via Big Machine Records. His first new record since 2020, the album was produced by McGraw and his longtime producing partner Byron Gallimore. Pre-save the album now https://timmcgraw.lnk.to/SRO_UK

Standing Room Only Tracklist

  1. Hold On To It, Songwriters (Ryan Larkins, Seth Mosley, Jimmy Yeary)
  2. Standing Room Only, Songwriters (Tommy Cecil, Patrick Murphy, Craig Wiseman)
  3. Paper Umbrellas, Songwriters (Monty Criswell, Drake Milligan)
  4. Remember Me Well, Songwriters (Heather Morgan, Jimmy Robbins)
  5. Hey Whiskey, Songwriters (Brad Hutsell, Joel Hutsell, Brad Warren, Brett Warren)
  6. Her, Songwriters (Jason Gantt, Tim Nichols, Jimmy Yeary)
  7. Fool Me Again, Songwriters (Kameron Marlowe, Brad Warren, Brett Warren, Rob Williford)
  8. Small Town King, Songwriters (Jaren Johnston, Jenn Schott, Jeremy Stover)
  9. Beautiful Hurricane, Songwriters (Mike Lane, Tony Lane)
  10. Cowboy Junkie, Songwriters (Bill Luther, Lance Miller, Justin Weaver)
  11. Nashville CA/L.A. Tennessee, (Featuring Lori McKenna), Songwriters (Tim McGraw, Lori McKenna, Bob Minner)
  12. Some Songs Change Your World, Songwriters (Mark Irwin, Josh Kear, Lance Miller)
  13. Letter From Heaven, Songwriters (Chase McGill, Lori McKenna, Parker Welling)

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