Tim McGraw, "Two Lanes Of Freedom" (Big Machine)
Veteran country star Tim McGraw resolutely refers to independence and the highway in the title of his new album, "Two Lanes Of Freedom," his first since leaving Curb Records, his label for two decades. The title cut flaunts that freedom by employing world-music instruments, harmonies and rhythms to communicate just how creatively liberated he feels.
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But McGraw's always pushed at the boundaries of country music. Here he balances experimental arrangements with hat tips to contemporary country music -- the hit "Truck Yeah" follows the current trend of matching rural signifiers with pounding rock, while "One Of Those Nights" nicely weaves in slice-of-life sentiments, a common McGraw theme.
Elsewhere, he succeeds at broadening his sound with hip-hop, bluegrass and piano pop. He also bridges the generations on "Highway Don't Care," a duet with Taylor Swift and Keith Urban that says even freedom needs an anchor in true love.