Tim McGraw could make a pretty strong Christmas album if he chose to do so. His new release 'Mary and Joseph' is a creative -- but not too creative -- interpretation of the story of Jesus' birth. McGraw tells it like he's told the best stories of his two decade-long career, with a sweet reverence for the struggles his characters are living through.

At nearly five minutes long, 'Mary and Joseph' may turn some people off before they even push play, but the song doesn't feel that long. A sweeping 38-second instrumental introduces McGraw's 21st century Mary.

"Mary was the first of three / Long black hair and sugar sweet / Daddy's eyes and her mama's crooked smile / She was barely 17 / Got a job keeping dishes clean / Planned to stay in the city for awhile," he sings.

There's not much for a staunch fan of traditional country to embrace in this production, as the instrumentation includes wind instruments, heavy keyboards, and a choir that certainly isn't from Nashville. Credit McGraw for taking a chance both in content and in the studio. Reinventing Mary and Joseph's love is a foreboding task that he works through without the benefit of a catchy chorus to fall back on.

"Angel scared her half to death / She would have screamed but she lost her breath / On a midnight dare in the middle of May / Said Mary don't be afraid / You'll bear a son that the Lord has made / Call him Jesus, he will light the way," he sings in the holiday tune.

The final verse is more true to the Biblical story, but certainly not the scene you may see played out in church theater productions this holiday season. The entire song -- including a swooning, one-minute outro -- is embraced by McGraw's earnest desire to share this story. It's saturated in artistic expression, which rarely leads a singer off course.

3.5 Stars

Listen to Tim McGraw, 'Mary and Joseph'

More From AllChristmas.fm