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Meanwhile Back At Mama's

by Tim McGraw
feat. Faith Hill

I’ll admit that I find myself drawn to this kind of mainstream country production with a kind of morbid fascination, gawking at the unholy perfection of the Nashville machine in the same way I find it difficult to wrench my gaze away from aging stars who’ve had too many facelifts. As a singer myself, it’s the vocal tuning that appals me most. Although rocket-powered ‘Melodyning’ doesn’t fuss me as much with uptempo productions where rhythm parts play a greater role, in this case it seems such a waste that such an intimate song appears to have had so much of the natural emotion steamrollered out of it on corrective grounds. Honestly, you don’t need to nail down every millisecond of every vocal syllable to the grid to make a performance sound in tune. It’s just not necessary — and I say that as someone who’s spent plenty of time retuning vocals myself, not least for my Mix Rescue remixes! It’s pitch correctness gone mad, I’m telling you…

Anyhow, now I’ve got that off my chest, let me also point out a separate panning issue, namely that the main acoustic rhythm guitar is panned all the way over to the right of the panorama, and rarely is it counterbalanced by anything comparable on the other side. This is something that I’d instinctively tend to avoid when targeting a mainstream audience these days, because it opens up the risk that some of your listeners may hear an unexpectedly different mix in situations where they’re listening one-sided. Before you scoff at this concern, ask yourself how often you’ve seen people sharing earbuds, and also how often you see people listening on one earbud so they can listen to their music collection while holding a conversation with their friends — I saw fully a third of the occupants of my train carriage doing that the other day! As such, it’s educational to listen through to each of the channels of this song separately, and ask yourself whether the music still works properly one-sided.

To my mind, the lack of the instrumental hook in the left channel during the song’s first eight bars feels like a bit of a misjudgment in this respect, and the middle-section at 2:05-2:27 also seems to make substantially less sense musically in the left channel without the slide guitar interjections at 2:11 and 2:22. Other than that, though, the two mixes actually work rather nicely as alternative visions, almost as remixes — the left-channel version has more expansive with greater long-term ebb and flow in the arrangement, whereas the right-channel balance has more rhythmic drive.