Tim McGraw has been a country superstar for quite some time. His debut in 1993 didn’t really strike gold for the singer, but his follow up, 1994’s Not A Moment Too Soon almost immediately launched McGraw to super stardom with “Indian Outlaw.” Ever since, McGraw has been topping the charts with hit after hit.
Over the last few years, you’ve probably heard about the battle McGraw and his long time label, Curb Records, have had publicly. Both parties sued for breach of contract. In mid 2012, the court ruled against Curb allowing McGraw to leave and record with another label. Almost immediately, McGraw found a new home on the indie (but very prominent) Big Machine Records headed by marketing genius Scott Borchetta, who is best known for launching Taylor Swift’s career.
Two Lanes Of Freedom is McGraw’s first album under the Big Machine imprint. If you’ve followed his career at all, you’d understand the title was probably inspired by the Curb lawsuit. McGraw seems to be right at home by having more freedom under Borchetta than Mike Curb.
Shortly after announcing the signing, the first single, “Truck Yeah” was released to country radio. The track marked the highest-charting debut in his career. The hard rocking single is an ode to trucks and the women who love them! It was a step forward to my ears as several of his more recent Curb singles were infused with pop loops and effects that made me turn the dial every time I heard them, but this one was more in line with my taste. The same goes for the entire album.
Two Lanes Of Freedom was released on February 5th in two physical configurations, standard and Accelerated Deluxe editions. While the standard caters to the casual fan, the deluxe is sure to satisfy the die hard fan with four additional tracks that aren’t included in the standard version. I reviewed the Accelerated Deluxe edition and found that out of the 15 tracks, only a few were pop infused while the rest sounded like classic McGraw country.
McGraw takes you on a musical journey through this record as he implements pop and rock in his country. The poppy songs include the title track, “Southern Girl” and “Mexicoma.” Although “Mexicoma” is a bit of a different sound. It features a horns section reminiscent of modern Mexican pop music. Not a bad track, but surely not a single either.
Some of the stand out tracks include the current single “One Of Those Nights,” a feel good track full of dreamy what if scenarios, “Truck Yeah,” and “Nashville Without You,” an ode to country music and how it wouldn’t be what it is today without some of the classic tunes its best known for.
Taylor Swift and Keith Urban both make appearances on the record, despite their names being exempt from the album’s back sleeve. They close out the standard edition with “Highway Don’t Care” as Swift trades vocals with McGraw and Urban’s guitar licks solo throughout the collaboration.
The artwork is pretty good. The front cover features McGraw standing by a partially built wall as the sun bears down. Various street lights are layered over him to resemble more of a hard light feel. The back sleeve reveals the photo shoot took place in the desert. This time, he is sitting near that wall holding a coffee cup.
Inside, we get more photos of McGraw, including a foldout poster on one side with the song lyrics printed over his face. It appears separate artwork was printed for the inside of both the standard and deluxe editions as the lyrics to the additional tracks are printed here. The only mention of the Swift and Urban collaboration are on the inside credits, and even then, it doesn’t specify the track.
As a fan of disc art, I hate when it lacks. This isn’t the case here. I am fond of it as it is features an array of colors interlacing a road and street lights. Blue, orange and yellow make up the primary colors of the disc and art underneath it.
This album is more of what I expected from Tim McGraw. As mentioned previously, some of his latest work hasn’t been appealing to me as it’s just too pop sounding, along the lines of Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift. I can bear all of the songs featured here, despite some of the more pop-laden tracks. I think this album suits McGraw well and hope he continues to stick with a formula that works; a little contemporary mixed with 90s country rock.