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McGraw leads the way at jam

Huntington Beach, Huntington, Beach, Cal., April 6, 2019

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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The beach has become one of the central locales for many country songs these days. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to get through a Kenny Chesney album without a few mentions of beach culture. Therefore, Huntington Beach, Cal. read like the perfect setting for this third annual Coastal Country Jam. It sure beat a generic shed or hockey arena. Oh, and the music was pretty good, too.

Tim McGraw headlined the bill with a set of mostly hits and a few new songs. He sang his current single, "Thought About You," and found space to perform his Elton John cover, "Tiny Dancer." He mentioned how he felt like he had dust in his throat, which was hampering his singing, but it sure didn't sound like he was struggling. He had the audience dancing to "I Like It, I Love It," but sent them home with the one-two contemplative punch of "Humble and Kind" and "Live Like You Were Dying."

Second billed Jake Own was quite the action figure this day, even climbing to the top of the light rigging structure to sing a few lines. He opened his set with "Down to the Honkytonk," a really fine song, and filled out his set with singalong hits, like "Barefoot Blue Jean Night" and "The One That Got Away." The set's strangest moment arrived when he sang Sublime's "What I Got." It's a punky-reggae song, but Owen sang it authoritatively, as though he'd been singing it his whole life. It was geographically appropriate, too, as Sublime was from nearby Long Beach.

Chase Rice's set was scattered, as the performer seemed a little distracted at times by members of the audience. He also doesn't seem to know who he wants to be. Is he the serious, Springsteen-esque singer/songwriter, exemplified by "Three Chords & the Truth," or the lightweight party guy of the Florida Georgia Line covered "Cruise"?

Dylan Scott's set was mostly forgettable. He may have opened with one called "Hooked," but that word wouldn't describe the more discerning audience members, who found his pop-country mixture dull and uninspiring.

Mason Ramsey lived up to the saying, 'And a child shall lead them,' with a set that combined a few originals with lots of Hank Williams and a little Johnny Cash. He may be a little guy, and a young guy, but he sure knows how to sing well.

Brennley took the stage at 12:15, before the sold-out crowd got big, but scored early with a winning set of country music, including a strong cover of Dolly Parton's "Jolene."

For a festival in such a party-ready setting, Coastal Country Jam also found a way to present a goodly dosage of authentic, meaningful country music. Coastline beauty and quality country music made for the perfect combination.