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Tim McGraw, ‘Southern Girl’ – ToC Critic’s Pick [Listen]

Southern Girl
Big Machine Records

Tim McGraw‘s latest album ‘Two Lanes of Freedom’ is full of songs that should live long after their run up the charts. The latest is ‘Southern Girl,’ a too-easy-to-fall-for tribute to American women born where the weather’s hot nine months a year.

“Easy” is the key word. Nothing about McGraw’s latest effort is forced or rushed. It’s like a perfect day off spent on a beach with suntan lotion and a swimsuit being the only things weighing you down. A groovy, Jack Johnson-like riff roots the breezy arrangement. McGraw’s vocals are smooth and unencumbered.

Kisses sweeter than Tupelo honey / Little bit crazy like New Orleans / Memphis blue and Daytona sunny / Soft as cotton in some cut-off jeans / Don’t you know / Ain’t nothing in the whole wide world like a southern girl,” McGraw sings, painting a picture we all want to take the Nestea plunge into.

Credit goes to Jaren Johnston (of the Cadillac Three), Rodney Clawson and Lee Thomas Miller for these beautifully simple lyrics. McGraw — who’s married to a true Southern girl — is the perfect person to make it a hit. Along with producer Byron Gallimore, they realize this is not the time to add heavy vocal effects, mostly.

She’ll get a little hay in her hair, her tires in the mud / She’s been caught in the rain, and washed in the blood / Likes cherries in her coke, takes a little sip / Comes over to me with them sunburned lips and them,” he sings during verse two.

Sure, some will find the post-chorus objectionable. It’s a quasi auto-tune that sticks out like the old guy in a Speedo at first. But after a few listens, you begin to realize that much like that mushy ball of wrinkles, it adds necessary color. You root for it, proud to sing it loud each time it comes around.

Southern girl rock my world / Hazel eyes and golden curls / Put on a country song /We’ll dance all night long.”

Four minutes can be a bit long for a summer song, but McGraw’s third verse and the nifty bass line that frames it makes this a track worth committing to. The track’s overall feel is one that’s repeated each summer, but few have brought it back as effortlessly as McGraw in recent years.

4.5 Stars

Listen to Tim McGraw, ‘Southern Girl’

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Next: The Top Summer Singles of 2013!

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