Album Review

Tim McGraw, 'Southern Voice'

October 19, 2009

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Tim McGraw Southern Voice
ESSENTIAL “Mr. Whoever You Are’’

The opening song on Tim McGraw’s new record - an unalloyed ’80s arena-rock ballad that skirts hair metal territory with its chugging bass line and screaming guitar solo - might lead one to question the genre label attached to the top of this review. But “Southern Voice’’ soon enough settles into more recognizable contemporary country strains, from the tradition-leaning, minor-key melancholy of “Ghost Town Train (She’s Gone)’’ to the jagged modern sound of “Good Girls’’ to the mandolin-and-strings-laced ballad “I Didn’t Know It at the Time.’’ And it turns out to be a solid enough representation of the sort of music McGraw has been making for most of this decade that falls short of the best of what he’s been doing. There are lesson songs (“You Had to Be There’’), ruminations (“If I Died Today’’), character sketches (“Mr. Whoever You Are’’), and a bit of comic relief (“It’s a Business Doing Pleasure With You,’’ a song reminiscent of early, hat-act McGraw). And if the title track is yet another Southern pride anthem that, lyrically speaking, turns out to be full of sound and fury signifying nothing, it’s still a hooky rave-up that a lot of people, including Northerners, will be singing along to the next time McGraw is on tour. STUART MUNRO