THE TRUTH ABOUT MEN

Today's tough-skinned country hunks aren't afraid to show their vulnerable, sensitive sides. But don't expect them to give up their macho images completely!

Tim McGraw is a take-charge guy -- and tonight he's proving it. At his family's Nashville home, the rugged superstar gathers his three daughters – Gracie, Maggie and Audrey -- into the family room, and puts on a CD of one of the girls' favorite rock bands.

Tim heads to the kitchen and starts making some noise of his own, rattling pots and dishes around and grabbing ingredients from a cupboard. He's cooking tonight's meal for the girls and wife Faith Hill, something he does quite often.

"I don't mind playing 'Mr. Mom' every now and then -- and taking over the house," he says.

Slaving over a stove, clutching cooking utensils -- not the picture we normally associate with Tim. But he fits right in among the new breed of country men, from Toby Keith to Kenny Chesney, who aren't afraid to show their romantic, softer sides. At the same time, they're able to maintain their masculine, rough-hewn images.

And that's the real truth about men -- there's more than one side to their personalities.

Alan Jackson, a bona fide country hunk who likes fast cars, fishing and tinkering with motors, is also capable of writing tender, weepy tunes like "I'd Love You All Over Again," which he dedicated to his wife, Denise, and "Livin' on Love." Alan chalks that up to his childhood in Newnan, Ga., where he grew up with four older sisters. "Maybe I'm a little more sensitive to certain things than some men are," he says. "Being around women gave me a strong sense of respect for the opposite sex."

Kenny Chesney may have a reputation as a party-hearty playboy, but he also has his tender, domestic side. "I try to make dates romantic," he says. "Usually there's some good Italian food and lots of candles involved."

And Kenny isn't just going to date forever -- the truth is, he longs for something more permanent. "Sure, I do think about getting married and having kids," he admits. "I want a family, and I want to have more balance in my life than I have right now."

George Strait's quiet tenderness, romantic ballads and buttoned-down demeanor -- he's never seen without a starched shirt and perfectly pressed pants -- hides a guy who occasionally likes to take his hat off and let his hair down, cutting loose annually at the parties held around the Kentucky Derby. But no matter what exotic and famous women he meets there -- like the outrageous Anna Nicole Smith, with whom he was recently spotted chatting -- he remembers what's important: his wife, Norma. "She's the only girl I've ever loved," he says.

Keith Urban searches for that same balance. "Obviously, I've thought a lot about getting married and having children," says the Australian-raised guitar wizard, who shows he's in touch with his softer side through his sense of style -- and painted toenails! "That would be great. And I would say definitely in the next five years I would like to see that happen."

Ronnie Dunn of Brooks & Dunn seems to have found the perfect combination between sentiment and swagger. "I'm a romantic guy, just not on a daily basis," he explains. "But when I do, I try to make it count." For example, Ronnie remembers a special anniversary with wife Janine.

"It was about seven years ago," he says.

"I was remodeling the barn at our house and had a surprise candlelight dinner for her. I had all her favorite songs burned to a CD and the food catered."

Toby Keith's biggest hits have included such cocky, aggressive songs as "How Do You Like Me Now?!" and "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)." But away from the spotlight, Toby is a loving, tender husband and father. "I absolutely love performing," he declares. "But being at home with my wife, Tricia, and my three kids is the best feeling of all."

Read more of The Truth About Men and more in the current 8/29/03 "Newsstand Issue" on sale now!

Story By Bob Paxman and Chris Neal

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