The global superstar traverses country music’s history with new 10-track album

Garth Brooks has released his 14th studio album, Time Traveler. The 10-track project is available exclusively in his new The Limited Series box set, available through Bass Pro Shops. The seven-disc box set is the third and final in a series that started in 1998 with a second released in 2005.

On the various Inside Studio G programs on his Facebook page, Garth Brooks has described Time Traveler as a journey across the various eras of country music. And it’s easy to see why.

This is perhaps the highest-quality album Brooks has offered since returning to recording. It lacks the angst of Man Against Machine, and it does not recreate the adrenaline-fueled franticness of Gunslinger. And it’s very different in style from the escapist Fun.

Time Traveler is the most sonically cohesive album Brooks has released in the past 10 years. It seems that the G-Man has become most comfortable with where he is right now as an artist, hitting his stride with his voice, his ear for songs by other artists, and his own songwriter’s pen. It also marks the second time Brooks has ever self-produced his own studio record.

It speaks to the attention to detail in this album that Brooks looked for pieces that would evoke a different moment in country music’s rich history. So rather than give a detailed review of the album as a whole, let’s discuss track-by-track the eras each number evokes.

1 – “Me Without You”
Breezy, beachy, but also pensive. It’s a song that would fit right at home on older albums Sevens and Scarecrow. Jimmy Buffett and Kenny Chesney would be proud. Era: Early 2000s

2 – “Rodeo Man” (The Duet with Ronnie Dunn)
Garth teams up for a song with Ronnie Dunn–thus creating a different kind of “Brooks and Dunn”–that is a 90’s country party through-and-through. It’s quite surprising how similar their voices are in the mix. Era: 1990s.

3 – “Only Country Music”
This song could be the thesis statement for the entire album. Indeed, it launched The Big 615, the first of seven channels on Garth’s TuneIn network. That said, it doesn’t fit comfortably into any “era,” feeling more of the moment than evoking anything of the past. It’s a number that is taking advantage of the hear-and-now’s effort to turn back to a neo-traditional sound. Era: 2020s.

4 – “St. Paul-Minneapolis”
This song has a quieter instrumentation than most of the other songs of Time Traveler. It’s a folksy story song that fits into the 60’s penchant for singer-songwriter fare that’s less catchy and more emotionally evocative. Era: 1960s.

5 – “Neon Neighborhood”
Party. Party. Party. This earworm will have you smiling the biggest smile you’ve had in quite a while. Perhaps I’ve become overly sentimental for “The 615,” but it may be the most fun song (aside from “Sugarcane,” …if you know, you know…) that Garth has released since his comeback nearly a decade ago. Its muscled-up production with horns and a chanting choir means it’s not a 90’s song at all, yet it’s the most authentic follow-up to “Friends in Low Places” that Brooks has ever released. Oh, and original G-Man session musician Chris Leuzinger shreds on the electric guitar like a crazy 800-pound gorilla. Era: 2010s.

6 – “The Ship and the Bottle” (The Duet with Kelly Clarkson)
Kelly Clarkson and Brooks are perfect harmonizers. Anybody who has ever watched them together on The Kelly Clarkson Show knows this. Strangely, the thought that came to my mind when I heard “The Ship and the Bottle,” was “This sounds like it could have been in the Urban Cowboy movie.” Perhaps it’s Clarkson’s pop credentials shining through that caused this, as the “Urban Cowboy” movement was marked by an adult-contemporary-popification of country music for a time. The song blends both of these superstars’ musical sensibilities perfectly. Era: 1980s.

7 – “Pleasure in the Pain”
Pure country. As Garth says in his Vegas residency–where he has been playing the song since before it was ever recorded–there’s something about country music that “makes it feel so good to feel so bad.” “Pleasure in the Pain” is as country as it gets on this record. Era: Timeless.

8 – “The Ride”
At first listen, I wanted to say it was Aldean-y and what Garth calls “muscle country.” But, see above, I gave that to “Neon Neighborhood.” You realize almost right away that “The Ride” takes Waylon, Merle, Seger, and crashes them right into each other. It’s an outlaw road anthem right out of that decade. The David Allen Coe cover includes an additional verse that Brooks says was approved by Coe. Era: 1970s.

9 – “Another Man’s Sky”
Back to the 90’s we go. Clearly, that’s Garth’s time. The steel-driven lament would be right at home on The Chase or Fresh Horses. As on those albums, Brooks has found another way to put a poetic point on a man’s pain at the end of a relationship. Era: 1990s

10 – “We Belong to Each Other”
This is the song with which listeners will be familiar. It has been out for years since Brooks shared it with ABC’s Robin Roberts to “decide what to do” with the song. She decided to release it for the world to hear during the pandemic. The song brings back some of that breezy feel we had at the beginning of the album, but with a bit more of a hopeful message. Brooks always makes sure to put a message song of love and humanity on his records. Not only has he done that again here, but he has clearly marked it as his favorite number by choosing it as the closing track. Era: Early 2000’s.