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Tim McGraw

Emotional Traffic – 2012 (Curb)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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CDs by Tim McGraw

Tim McGraw is the ultimate country music Zelig. Match him with a great lyric, and he's like the voice of a prophet. But put him with fluff, and he's no better than a news reader anchorman on a slow news day. McGraw is at his best on Better Than I Used To Be, a song as spiritual as you want it to be. It could easily be applied to the New Testament exhortation to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." It can also be taken as a self-help summation. Whatever the case, McGraw sounds amazing singing this sincere country ballad.

Touchdown Jesus also attempts to send out a spiritual message, but ascribing TDs to Christ is just a little bit too Tebow for its own good. McGraw is not quite so persuasive on lighter material, such as the song/salutation Right Back Atcha Babe or the romantic formula One Part, Two Part. Then again, songs that feature winning melodic hooks, albeit without a whole lot of meat between the buns, still succeed on feel-good vibes. Both Felt Good On My Lips and Hey Now make the grade on charm alone. Only Human, McGraw's duet with soul singer Ne-Yo, is not as genre-bending as his prior pairing with Nelly, but still pleasant.

In the end, Zelig McGraw mostly comes out on the winning side when rating the songs on "Emotional Traffic." And that's more than an acceptable traffic report.