Tim McGraw’s debut on Big Machine, Two Lanes Of Freedom is his first record since the announcement that he gave up alcohol five years ago. It literally and symbolically represents a fresh start.  If only the material better reflected his new take on life. What is presented here is about as boiler plate as contemporary country gets. Overall, the album is a safe play and takes almost no chances.

Themes range from gettin’ some in a car, One of Those Nights, to drinking away heartbreak on Mexicoma. Thankfully, there is some saving grace in the instrumentation.  Alongside a strangely successful pairing of electric guitar and violin, McGraw’s voice is silky smooth yet authoritative on the radio ready Friend Of A Friend. He makes two attempts to bridge the generation gap. A funky auto tuned chorus on Southern Girl seems too deliberate an attempt to be hip. In a subtler move, Taylor Swift and Keith Urban are employed on the Warren Brothers’ penned closer Highway Don’t Care.

McGraw is now sober, fit as a triathlete and ready to take new chances in his career. Perhaps that creative freedom will be expressed on future efforts.