The Lost Diaries of Shawn Kemp: Vol. 10 – Tim McGraw and the Dancehall Doctors


Buried deep in the Pacific Northwest, under Randy Hansen albums and Scott Bankhead jerseys, Ballerball was able to uncover a vast number of writings from Shawn Kemp’s old diary. In some cases, Kemp would write album reviews. This is one such case. These are his words.*

December 19, 2002

In his eighth studio album and his first with new backing band The Dancehall Doctors, Tim McGraw just offered up his best, most-complete album to date with Tim McGraw and the Dancehall Doctors. A sprawling 15 track adventure that provides at least a couple singles that will no doubt become new classics, American standards even, in the world of country music. Timmy came bringing some southern heat.

Just one year removed from the well received Set This Circus Down, Tim comes back offering up a few more pieces of his unbroken — the McGraw heads will get that bit — heart. The song that the world is talking about, the unapologetic and heartbreaking ballad “Red Ragtop” will get most of the juice come CMA season, but “Watch The Wind Blow By” should take a backseat to no song. It’s a lazy day of a song. A calm and relaxed 76 degrees with a light breeze coming from the south while you’re in a hammock with someone you love vocal tour-de-force by McGraw here. The imagery is stunning.

Creek goes rippling by
I’ve been barefootin’ all day with my baby
Brown leaves have started falling
Leading the way
I like it best just like this
Doing nothing all the way
So let’s lay down in the tall grass
Dreaming away

If an album’s greatness is defined by its listenability and its repeatability, then Dancehall Doctors should be viewed as a triumph. It’s a winding album of high highs and low lows and not for one second does it stop playing with your heart.

One of the highs is “She’s My Kind of Rain”, a thick and full love song dripping with earnestness. It’s a song that aches. One a man sings when he’s dreaming of a perfect woman.

She’s my kind of rain
Like love in a drunken sky
She’s confetti falling
Down all night

I think of a girl when I hear that. Her name was Nallaya. She had eyes like lakes and her brown hair would fall across them when she danced. We were friends for years. When I finally told her how I felt, she kissed my hand and walked away. We were at a club in Seattle that no longer exists. The walls were red velvet and there were diamonds in the ceiling and when De La Soul came on there was no one sitting, no one still. There were cupcakes there. Chocolate. They reminded me of Kentucky.

That night I saw Nallaya kissing Vincent Askew.

I remember crying in the bathroom. I remember the wet tile and the whir of the hand dryers and the way the door would creek. I remember trying to muffle my sobs when someone would come in. I remember sprinting out, Hersey trying to stop me and tell me it was going to be okay. I remember telling him that no, no it wouldn’t. It would never be okay.

She was my rain and I saw then that rain would never fall. Not on me. My world is dry. There are no storms anymore.


*No, they’re not. 

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