Time to break out those iTunes Gift cards you got for Christmas. Tim McGraw is back in stores. Two Lanes of Freedom is not a comeback album for Tim McGraw. He hasn’t really been gone. It is a kind of re-birth for the artist who has over 13 albums under his big buckled belt, and three Grammys.
McGraw’s been tussling with his original label home for the last several years so album releases have been slow to come. Two Lanes of Freedom (out now) gives him a bit of a career reboot. He has a new deal with Big Machine Records and now his biggest challenge is to keep up with his track record of being one of the biggest album sellers of the past fifteen years.
The album takes the opportunity to be very radio friendly and very commercial country. Songs like Truck Yeah, Mexicoma, and Southern Girl have a whiff of cheese but they work. It’s just enough. Nashville without You sounds like it may have been commissioned by the Nashville Chamber of Commerce with inspiration from Paisley’s This Is Country Music; but , again, it works. There are very familiar country blue-print songs here too. Book Of John is a photographic journey into the life of a deceased
loved one. Annie I Owe You a Dance is like Garth Brooks Unanswered Prayers part two but with unique flavor that will touch his many female fans. Familiar themes in country but McGraw keeps them fresh.
There are only a few slight artistic stretches on this album for McGraw. There’s some trombone in Mexicoma and Tpain-esque vocal effects on Southern Girl, and a Phillip Phillips “Home” chant on the uplifting title track. No ventures into rapping thankfully (although some would argue Truck Yeah is leaning that way).
All in all the album is easy to listen to from beginning to end and sounds even better the second and third listen. The single One of Those Nights is a proven hit on the radio and songs like Dear John and “Annie” will become favorites for many.
One of the most talked about tunes on the album features a collaboration with Taylor Swift and the guitar licks of Keith Urban. Highway Don’t Care is a fantastic superstar mash-up that uses Swift’s charm and Urban’s punch to really make a special tune. Let’s hope all parties agree to give it a go as a radio single.
Tim McGraw will have some fun new material from Two Lanes of Freedom to perform live on tour too. The title track will get the arena chanting.