Emotional Traffic

Tim McGraw is country's tough-but-tender specialist, at ease enough in his Stetson to forsake macho posturing and plunge into emotional thickets. His 11th LP is his most assured, with a dozen sharp songs about middle-American struggles. Strong storytelling redeems cheesy stuff like "Touchdown Jesus," as does the music, a savvy mix of down-home twang, pop tunefulness and rock heft. (There's even a Ne-Yo duet, "Only Human.") But McGraw's at his finest reckoning with demons over a cresting chorus: "I ain't as good as I'm gonna get," he sings on the album's latest single, "but I’m better than I used to be."

Listen to "Better Than I Used to Be":

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From The Archives Issue 1149: February 2, 2012
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