Country-music purists often gripe about the watering-down of the genre -- and Tim McGraw is as good a symbol as anyone of why it's happened. McGraw is a good-lookin' guy hitched to a good-lookin' gal, Faith Hill, and he's got an interesting backstory, too, since he was neglected by his birth father, baseball pitcher Tug McGraw, throughout much of his youth. But his version of C&W is a lot like Hill's role as a robotic house slave in the remake of The Stepford Wives: His songs seem perfectly fine on the surface, but underneath, they're cold, calculating and often more than a little bit creepy. The best country ballads are astringent and hard-eyed, but McGraw efforts such as the noxiously bathetic "Everywhere" tend to settle for commercially savvy goopiness. Most of his up-tempo stuff is equally vapid, and so are his dabblings in rock and pop; his latest disc, 2002's Tim McGraw and the Dancehall Doctors, features an icky cover of Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" and guest vocals courtesy of Kim "Bette Davis Eyes" Carnes. If that sounds like your thing, don't miss this show. If not, steer clear, because you won't hear much real country music from the Stepford Cowboy.
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