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Tim McGraw

Two Lanes of Freedom – 2013 (Big Machine)

Reviewed by Michael Rampa

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CDs by Tim McGraw

Tim McGraw's debut on Big Machine, "Two Lanes Of Freedom" is his first record since the announcement that he gave up alcohol five years ago and the first since his acrimonious, litigious split from the only label he had ever known, Curb. The new CD literally and symbolically represents a fresh start. If only the material better reflected his new take on life. What is presented here is about as boiler plate as contemporary country gets. The album is a safe play and takes almost no chances.

Themes range from gettin' some in a car (One of Those Nights) to drinking away heartbreak (Mexicoma). Thankfully, there is some saving grace in the instrumentation. Alongside a strangely successful pairing of electric guitar and violin, McGraw's voice is silky smooth yet authoritative on the radio ready Friend Of A Friend. He makes two attempts to bridge the generation gap. A funky auto tuned chorus on Southern Girl seems too deliberate an attempt to be hip. In a subtler move, Taylor Swift and Keith Urban are employed on the Warren Brothers' penned closer Highway Don't Care.

McGraw is now sober, fit as a triathlete and ready to take new chances in his career. If only that creative freedom was expressed here.