Two Lanes of Freedom by Tim McGraw

After a highly publicized battle with his former label, Tim McGraw won the right to make his new album with Big Machine Records (home of Taylor Swift) and the result is Two Lanes of Freedom. The title seems to be a subtle nod to his legal struggles, but it also points to a creative sort of liberty where you just enjoy the adventure.

By now you already know the rowdy “Truck Yeah” and the sexy new single “One of Those Nights.” The album’s title cut and leadoff song encapsulates the idea—a wide-open future as experienced on a sunny drive with no roadblocks or traffic lights in sight. It builds to anthemic crescendos with Springsteen-esque shouted whoa-oh-oh vocal lines and pounding drums, signaling that there’s more in store just up ahead.

And mostly, there is. Two Lanes of Freedom benefits from gorgeous, lush production with intriguing little instrumental flourishes. Songs build and form around revolving guitar or piano figures, the layers piling on until each track reaches epic proportions. “Number 37405” tells the tale of a country singer turned convict, and “Book of John” relates the story of the death of a patriarch and what he passed along. The hilariously (or stupidly, depending on who you ask) titled “Mexicoma” is probably the most far out-sounding song of the bunch—like some caffeinated offspring of Nashville resident Ben Folds’ “Army” and The Turtles’ “Happy Together,” blissfully loaded on pricey tequila and backed by an exuberant horn section.

“Southern Girl” has noble aspirations of flattering the beauties from below the Mason-Dixon line, but falls victim to the song-that-lists-cities-or-states trope. It also makes use of the vocoder “robot voice” trick, which sounds almost alien in the country song context.

Two Lanes of Freedom wraps up with another road song, the excellent “Highway Don’t Care.” A woman blows off steam on a drive, then hears a song that makes her want to turn around and go home. Taylor Swift adds a lovely counterpoint melody, while Keith Urban swoops in for a soaring guitar solo. You’ll want to hit the road and play this one over and over.

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