If God made old country roads for driving and dreaming, as is claimed on Two Lanes of Freedom‘s stomping opener, then perhaps he made Tim McGraw albums to give people something they can count on in this ever-changing world. The latest product of one of the most consistent careers in all of music, Two Lanes follows last year’s uncharacteristically uneven Emotional Traffic and a very public split from Curb Records, his label since the mullet and handlebar mustache days, with a strong narrative and stronger songs. It will almost certainly become his 14th No. 1 country album.
Across the standard release’s 11 tunes, McGraw deftly integrates a range of styles and references: A girl’s as sweet as Tupelo honey on one song, Lil Wayne’s bumpin’ on the iPod on the next, and none if it seems forced, neither pandering nor corny. Where the lead single, “Truck Yeah,” riffs off tracks like Jason Aldean’s “Hicktown,” the sort of hard-rockin’, hard-signifyin’ dirt-road anthems that once hit too hard for country radio but now fit right in, its follow-up, “One of Those Nights” is a more reflective second person account of Friday-night good times. The highlight, however, might be the closer, “Highway Don’t Care,” in which McGraw’s message to a departed lover gets entangled with the voice of Big Machine labelmate Taylor Swift coming over the woman’s car radio. In 2006, Swift’s “Tim McGraw” inadvertently rendered the singer old news. Two Lanes suggests he remains anything but.