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TV Preview: McGraw TV special a hometown hoot

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

By John Hayes, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Tim McGraw is a well-oiled machine. Not the guy -- the country music mill that has licensed his name and has been greasing cash registers since 1994. This year, the machine is throttling in the red zone with a new album, an autobiographical photo book and a CBS special that airs tomorrow night.

Tim McGraw says he exerted a lot of control over his first TV concert.

"Tim McGraw: Sing Me Home"

When: 8 p.m. tomorrow on NBC.

Starring: Tim McGraw.

"Sing Me Home," McGraw's first TV concert special, was filmed near his boyhood home of Start, La.

"I've never done a special before," drawls McGraw in a telephone interview. "We've talked about it for a couple of years, but never pulled the trigger on it. I didn't want to just do a show and put it out there on TV. I wanted to really have a lot of control."

After a production deal had been initiated with CBS, a stage was built on a cotton gin near the singer's former school. Some 30,000 of his fans crowded into the temporary amphitheater. With the technology of television enhancing the show, it was a step up from the annual concerts McGraw performs in Start.

"A few miles from my hometown, there is a little town, a crossroad really with a crossing light," he says. "I had this vision of building this great, great stage ... and inviting the whole town, actually everybody from all around. In the nearest 3,000 seats to the stage were all these people who I grew up with, people I hadn't seen in years. Whenever I recognized someone, I just called out their name. It was a great experience."

Named for a song on his new album, "Sing Me Home" is an intimate TV concert experience spotlighting country's reigning hunk. Most of the music is based on "Tim McGraw," an album that bucks the Nashville session-player mentality by using the studio sounds of McGraw's veteran touring band, the Dancehall Doctors.

During the recording sessions, McGraw and the Doctors clicked off hundreds of snapshots. Accompanied by autobiographical text by McGraw, the photos have been published in a new book, "Tim McGraw and the Dancehall Doctors: This Is Ours" (Atria/Simon & Schuster).

"Part of the enjoyment of an album is looking at the album art," says McGraw. "This is a 300-page full-sized album jacket kind of deal. We handed cameras out in the studio to all the guys and they documented things. That's where the heart and soul of the book came from."

At 9 p.m. Thursday, another NBC special, "When the Lights Go Down," showcases the music of Mrs. McGraw, Faith Hill. The special comes on the heels of "Cry," her poppy new Warner Bros. album.

John Hayes can be reached at jhayes@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1991.

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