Tim McGraw Returns to Tim McGraw on “I Called Mama”

Did you call your mama on Mother’s Day? It’s the country music thing to do. We can be assured Tim McGraw did, because that’s what his latest song is about.

The career trajectory of Tim McGraw over the past few years has been somewhere between confounding and nauseating. Let’s be honest, he was never a country music savior, but when he wiggled out of the evil grasp of Mike Curb at Curb Records and landed firmly on his feet at Big Machine, he released some of the best material of his career with 2014’s Sundown Heaven Town and 2015’s Damn Country Music.

But when he moved to Sony Music Nashville to facilitate being able to record and tour with his wife Faith Hill, it was one misstep in his solo career after another. Tim’s first solo single on Sony Nashville called “Neon Church” was fine, but ended its run on the charts at #20. The next single “Thought About You” sounded outright New Age, and stalled at #17. Then Tim dropped the monstrosity on us that’s called “Way Down” with Shy Carter. A country rap disaster with lyrics that allude to oral sex, it might go on to be the worst song released in country music in 2020 (read review).

Now Tim has moved on from Sony Nashville and returned to Big Machine, and we can immediately tell the difference with his latest song, “I Called Mama.” Again, it’s no world beater. It’s the the type of cheesy, over-sentimental, adult-contemporary material Tim McGraw releases at his best. But it works for Tim McGraw like these songs have for many years. Whether you want to label yourself a die hard McGraw fan or see some of his songs as guilty pleasures, putting steel guitar behind a universal sentiment and evoking the tried and true country music theme of mama works well.

Written by Lance Miller, Marv Green and Jimmy Yeary, this is the kind of material a 53-year-old Tim McGraw needs to be releasing as his career reaches the mature period. He doesn’t need to be out there tractor rapping and hip-hop gesticulating with Shy Carter. Whether it was Sony Nashville or McGraw himself that was responsible for the strange turn his career took on the label, he’s appears to be back on track for now.

There is still this strange situation lingering out there where a ticket bundle was offered to Tim McGraw fans while he was still signed to Sony Nashville. If fans bough certain packages for his summer tour, they were promised a copy of his upcoming record Here On Earth. How that will all shake out now with the label change—not to mention the cancellations and postponement issues due to the Coronavirus—is anyone’s guess. Will the album even include the same music he intended to release through Sony Nashville, or will he reset towards more “I Called Mama”-style material on Big Machine?

We’ll just have to wait and see. But for now, Tim McGraw made the right choice, like calling your mama.

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