Tim McGraw “Damn Country Music” — The country crooner comes full circle with his 14th studio album. The new release’s title track connects directly to the fire McGraw had in his belly when he moved to Nashville back in 1989. Today, he’s both a father and a superstar, one who tears up when singing about family, but savvy enough to push his product so that his kids’ friends will hear it first. He released the music video for “Damn Country Music” last month on Facebook and teased elements of the new album on his Instagram account. That’s hardly old-school country tactics, but McGraw’s fan base likely won’t mind.
The album carries an emotional weight for McGraw. He sings a duet with daughter Gracie, “Here Tonight,” and the final cut (“Humble and Kind”) brought him to tears over and again in the studio.
Bob Dylan, “The Cutting Edge 1965-1966: The Bootleg Series Vol. 12” — The ’60s legend shows little sign of stopping at the age of 74. He still understand the pull of his ’60s songbook on listeners both young and old.
His latest gathers all the material cut during the recording sessions behind his iconic disks “Bringing It All Back Home, “Blonde on Blonde” and “Highway 61 Revisited.” That took six CDs in total, a package including “new” versions of legendary songs released for the first time. How thorough is the compilation? There’s an entire disc dedicated to takes on “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Subterranean Homesick Blues.”
The package also features some video surprises, including fresh footage from Dylan’s music video for “Blues” in which he famously drops cue cards bearing the song’s lyrics.
Josh Abbott Band, “Front Row Seat” — Country music often focuses on those short denim skirts or Friday happy hours, not to mention the overplayed pickup rides. “Front Row Seat” is a bracing alternative. The concept album sprang from Josh Abbott’s personal heartache, the dissolution of his marriage and, on a pragmatic front, split from a major record label.
What follows is a song cycle capturing the blush of early love and the heartache that sometimes can follow. Songs like “Ghosts” reflect Abbott during his darkest moments, but the album as a whole isn’t a downer. The first half brims with uptempo numbers, the kind that helped forge the band’s touring chops. It’s still a more nuanced way for a country act to capture the range of emotions the genre can unleash.