40 Best Country Albums of 2014

The greatest statements from the year's outsiders, small town heroes and American middle class

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Tim McGraw, 'Sundown Heaven Town'

27. Tim McGraw, 'Sundown Heaven Town'

At 47, McGraw is embracing his elder statesman status with no desire to pretend otherwise. He can still, no doubt, kick a young buck's ass (see "Keep on Truckin'"), but on Sundown Heaven Town he often displays a sense of contentment that eluded him on past efforts. He wants his loved ones by his side ("Overrated," "Shotgun Rider") and he sometimes yearns for an earlier era ("Meanwhile Back At Mama's"). At a time when so many artists are chasing hits, McGraw stands out for an effortless ease that never seems lazy or repetitive. Even if the mercilessly Auto-Tuned "Looking For That Girl" doesn't stick its landing, the song shows that McGraw, 13 studio albums in, has lost none of his desire to grow as an artist — he's usually just doing it more gracefully than the rest of us. M.N.

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