2/8/13


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I was all set to hate Tim McGraw’s Two Lanes of Freedom, mostly because the title itself set me to expect all sorts of jingoistic hoohaw.  In fact, the really offensive thing about this record is how bland it is — completely country music by the numbers.  Even the politely neo-trad arrangements don’t veer too far into the usual arena rock cliches so beloved of the current country crowd.  Since this is McGraw’s first record since splitting from the odious Curb records, maybe this is the “freedom” he’s talking about — but freedom from what?  He still doesn’t write his own songs, and the songs he’s picking aren’t that distinguishable from anything else you might hear on country stations — everything here fits neatly into some archetype you’ve heard a million times:  ”One of those Nights” (the kind you’ll remember forever), “Southern Girl” (Pistol Annies’ “Boys from the South” lowered a few IQ points), “Nashville Without You” (a lazy “list” song in the vein of Brad Paisley’s “This is Country Music”), “Friend of a Friend” (think Garth’s “What She’s Doing Now”), the mawkish “Book of John” (a scrapbook remembering a late father).  Knee-slapping puns include “Truck yeah” and “Mexicoma.”  Also, let me just say that most drunk drivers, even ones guilty of manslaughter, usually don’t get the fifteen years the convict “Number 3745” gets, even south of the Mason-Dixon line — the stats on Mother Against Drunk Driving’s website doesn’t convince me the penalties are nearly as strong as they could be, especially when you factor in how many inmates are let free early for good behavior.  And then there’s Taylor Swift’s cameo — she’s the major artist on Big Machine, his new label, and her first hit single was actually called “Tim McGraw.”  The chorus of that song goes: “When you think Tim McGraw/I hope you think of my favorite song.”  Guess who I think of when I think Tim McGraw?  Taylor Swift.