Emotional Traffic by Tim McGraw

Tim McGraw’s final album for Curb Records suggests the beginning of an era of fresh creativity for this multidimensional artist.

Tim, who recorded with rapper Nelly in 2004, duets here with R&B star Ne-Yo on “Only Human.” Tim turns in his most vulnerable vocal performance in years on “Better Than I Used to Be,” a beautifully constructed song that was released by Sammy Kershaw in 2010. “One Part, Two Part” features backing vocals from wife Faith Hill, while Tim co-wrote the determined “I Will Not Fall Down” with Martina McBride and brothers Brad and Brett Warren.

At once melancholy and hopeful, “The One That Got Away” is a darker version of Kenny Chesney’s rags-to-riches tale, “Big Star,” while “Die By My Own Hand,” in which a man muses about the ways an ex-lover changed him, is one of the project’s strongest and most intriguing cuts. The John Mellencamp-reminiscent “Touchdown Jesus” offers three spiritually inspiring anecdotes about overcoming adversity, though linking these to a sports-related phrase feels like a forced concept and results in a brief and unsatisfying chorus.

Overall, though, the lyric content is among the best on a Tim McGraw album to date.

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