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Album review: Tim McGraw's 'Southern Voice'

October 19, 2009 |  8:53 pm
TMCG240 Tim McGraw sharply criticized Curb Records about this time last year for issuing a third "greatest hits" collection from the country star rather than release this album, which sat on a shelf for nearly two years after it was completed. McGraw sees this, his 10th studio effort, as a way of reclaiming his voice, and bucking the powers that be might well be one facet of that voice.

If only more of that feistiness were evident in the songs he's selected.

Things start out promisingly with "Still," by Lee Brice, Kyle Jacob and Joe Leathers. It's got a pulsating modern rock beat behind his Louisiana twang -- think of it as Coldplay with drawl -- but lyrically it digs a bit deeper than the melodramatic but superficial hits so closely associated with McGraw: "Don't Take the Girl" and "Live Like You Were Dying."

Then Troy Olsen and Marv Green's "Ghost Town Train," about a long-lost love, taps the kind of wistful folk-country that brings Gordon Lightfoot to mind. The leadoff single "It's a Business Doing Pleasure With You," written by Brett James, Joey Moi and, of all people, Nickelback's Chad Kroeger, has some fun, as one-dimensional as it is, with the up-tempo lament of a poor schlub who falls for a gold digger.

But it's back to hyper-emotional business as usual with "If I Died Today" and "I'm Only Jesus," two of three songs in which Brad and Brett Warren are among the multiple writers. Tom Douglas and Bob DiPiero's title track doesn't go much beyond running down a laundry list of important (mostly) Southern writers, musicians and politicians.

Gretchen Peters made a good point about these Big Picture country numbers in her song "The Secret of Life," which Faith Hill -- Mrs. McGraw -- recorded a decade ago, by suggesting there really is no secret, other than cultivating the ability to appreciate even seemingly inconsequential moments.

If McGraw can hone his musical vision, that Southern voice might find something even more potent to sing about.

-- Randy Lewis

Tim McGraw
"Southern Voice"
(Curb Records)
Two and a half stars (Out of four)