Tim McGraw is in the driver’s seat on 'Two Lanes of Freedom': Review
Taylor Swift and Keith Urban are along for the ride on new album
- Critic's Rating B-
- Readers' Rating A+
Tim McGraw started having hits with his second album in 1994, but he didn’t really get interesting until he ditched the hokiness of songs like “Indian Outlaw” and the treacly “Don’t Take The Girl” and started addressing life’s larger themes on 1999’s “A Place In The Sun.”
With songs like the yearning “Please Remember Me” and the wistful “My Next Thirty Years,” he started getting stronger material. By the time 2001’s “Set This Circus Down” came out, with such tracks as “Angry All The Time,” and the next album’s “Red Ragtop,” he had completely re-energized his career and given it a gravitas it has been missing.
On “Two Lanes of Freedom,” out today, the lite McGraw is largely in charge. On songs like last summer’s throwaway “Truck Yeah” and the infinitely better and bouncier “Mexicoma,” the only goal is good time, whether it’s in an effort to escape a past love or just get some mud on the flaps.
Maybe he’s feeling lighter because he’s finally been unshackled from his onerous contract with Curb Records and is now on Big Machine.
To be sure, there are hints of deeper meaning, such as on the poignant “The Book of John.” The cleverly-titled song details going through a father/husband’s photo albums and effects following his death as they head to his funeral. “It’s almost like he’s not really gone/and I know one day I’ll be passing on,” McGraw sings. As he’s moved into middle age, McGraw does death well.
Without McGraw’s own backstory, a song like “Number 37405” would just be another singer-turned-convict tale, but the story of the entertainer who goes to jail for killing someone while driving drunk has an added weight given that McGraw gave up drinking more than five years ago after he found it had too strong a hold on him.
The album, which is sure to be his 12th album to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Country Albums chart, begins and ends with the open road and the word “shotgun” here is reserved solely for the passenger front seat. On album opener “Two Lanes of Freedom,” a sense of wide open spaces is bolstered by the big backing vocals, redolent of fun.’s “Some Nights.” Closing tune, midtempo “Highway Don’t Care” is a sure future No. 1 as McGraw duets with Taylor Swift, who sounds sweet and all grown up here, on the tale of a man who just wants his lover to stay closer to home no matter how much the road calls. Keith Urban turns some tasty guitar work on the tune. Unlike some superstar projects (like McGraw’s duet with Kenny Chesney, “Rock Star), this combined effort seems more organic than an idea conceived in the VP of marketing’s office.
With McGraw feeling like he’s back in the driver’s seat, good things are sure to come. “Two Lanes” is a strong start, but it feels like only the tip of the iceberg, especially when fans know McGraw is capable of so much more range.
News From Our Partners
- What to Watch Tonight: The Office's Big Farewell and the Season Finales of TVD, Elementary, and Five More Supernatural Season 8 Finale Review: It's Raining Angels Watch an Extended Trailer for CBS's Under the Dome (VIDEO)
- 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon II': The Oscar-Winning Movie is Getting a Sequel 'The Bling Ring' Cannes Premiere: Emma Watson Steals the Show (PHOTOS) Why Brad Bird Turned Down 'Star Wars: Episode VII'; Talks 'Incredibles' Sequel
- Cannes Film Festival: Cannes 2013, Day One: Sofia Coppola offers the first misfire of the festival Hear This: A song with a long title succinctly encapsulates ’90s power-pop Watch This: Laura Palmer lives—however briefly—in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
- Critics Consensus: Star Trek Into Darkness is Certified Fresh Red Carpet Roundup: Star Trek Into Darkness Edition Video Interviews with Katie Aselton & Lake Bell of Black Rock
- Ilana Rapp: Actor Richard Harmon From Bates Motel and Continuum Talks about SpongeBob Squarepants and Yoga 'The Last Classic TV Comedy'? 'Biggest Loser' Host: 'I've Never Seen Jillian Eat A Cupcake'
- 'Zombieland' TV Series: Amazon Passes on the Pilot 'How I Met Your Mother' Final Season Spoilers: Producers Explain Time-Turning Format Change 'The Hangover Part 3′ Red-Band NSFW Trailer: It's Time to End the Trilogy
- 'Pacific Rim' Trailer Surfaces: Watch Now! 'Star Trek Into Darkness': The Reviews Are In! Emma Watson In 'The Bling Ring': The Early Reviews Are In!
- Beyonce Gets Emotional Onstage in Belgium [Video] Listen to Selena Gomez's 'Come & Get It' Remixes Katy Perry vs. Rita Ora vs. Beyonce vs. Kesha vs. Demi Lovato – Who Wore It Best?
Watch the Foo Fighters' hilarious speech now before it airs on HBOThursday, May 16, 2013
Phoenix is also on soundtrack for Sofia Coppola-directed filmThursday, May 16, 2013
Where does Mariah Carey's '#Beautiful' #debut?Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Rappers will appear with Bone Thugs N Harmony and Wu-Tang ClanWednesday, May 15, 2013