Almost a decade removed from his last Country Top 10 hit -- that would be "Paint Me a Birmingham," which reached number four in 2004; that itself was a bit of a last gasp, as it had been five years since he was a fixture in the Top 10 -- Tracy Lawrence finds himself independently releasing his 2013 comeback Headlights, Taillights and Radios. He's been on an independent road since 2004's Strong, trying his hand at both inspirational music (2009's The Rock) and relatively purer country (2011's The Singer), but Headlights is firmly within the crossover country tradition, sounding like the music he made in the years after he became a star. Lawrence dips into a bit of Texas two-step on "Cecil's Palace" -- just enough to prove that he still remembers where he comes from -- but this is a thoroughly contemporary country record, so modern he winds up occasionally indulging in the dreaded Auto-Tune. Amiable, excessively polished pop sits alongside pumping arena-country and more than his fair share of tear-jerk balladeering. At this point, these three styles are more Lawrence's tradition than the big-hat, new traditionalist country, and while his chances at a genuine hit single are slim -- more than ever, Nashville's system doesn't smile upon independent entrepreneurs -- he sounds comfortable, assured, and quite charming on this enjoyable record.
Headlights, Taillights and Radios Review
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine