Tim McGraw

Southern Voice

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Based on title alone, it would seem that Southern Voice picks up on the harder country edges of Let It Go, but that's not the case: this is Tim McGraw's rockiest album yet, opening with a slow, spacy crawl called "Still" that would not be out of place on a record by a U2 knockoff and often revisiting that territory, taking the occasional detour to Nickelback territory on the Chad Kroeger co-written "It's a Business Doing Pleasure with You." That tune bristles with Kroeger's barely veiled, unwitting hostility, something that the big-hearted McGraw doesn't wear well -- not in the least, because it sounds like a boneheaded swipe at his jetsetting wife Faith Hill -- and it's something he wisely side-steps on the rest of the record, choosing to mine a sentimental, meditative vein, musing on major changes in his life and wondering what will happen after he's gone. Such big themes fit both the big, atmospheric rock sounds and the reflective acoustic ballads well, creating an inward vibe that is occasionally punctuated by a hackneyed rocker, like the laundry list of great Southern names on the title track, or the mess of clich├ęs on "It's Only Jesus," changes of pace meant to goose along the record but instead wind up as speed bumps on a mellow trip.

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