Review: Tim McGraw's new album nicely blends contemporary and traditional country music styles

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Tim McGraw, "Damn Country Music" (Big Machine)

Few veteran artists straddle contemporary and traditional country music styles as well, and as entertainingly, as Tim McGraw. On his new album, "Damn Country Music," McGraw includes tunes George Jones would have felt comfortable performing, while others push country music into new territory.

On the traditional side, the cheating song "Don't Make Me Feel At Home" conjures up the sort of psychological dilemma found in classic country works by singers like Johnny Paycheck. "Here Tonight," with harmony vocals by daughter Gracie McGraw, draws on upbeat Celtic sounds with the timeless, celebratory feel of early Dixie Chicks.

On the moody country-rocker "Losin' You," McGraw and longtime producer Byron Gallimore mix atmospheric and dramatic touches to great effect. The melodic, sunny pop of "California," which features country duo Big & Rich, is the aural equivalent of the ocean breezes and palm trees that, in the lyrics, prove so alluring to a woman the singer loves.

To McGraw's credit, "Damn Country Music" shows that old and new sounds can work together — especially when the emphasis is on originality rather than following trends.

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