Tim McGraw, "Sundown Heaven Town" (Big Machine)
Twenty years after his breakthrough hit, "Indian Outlaw," Tim McGraw still pushes at country music's boundaries. His new album, "Sundown Heaven Town," incorporates contemporary Nashville flourishes while holding onto McGraw's signature sound — a moody, atmospheric tone developed over the years with producer Byron Gallimore.
The album hits several creative peaks, but bogs down with too many forgettable, mid-tempo tunes.
At age 47, McGraw hits home with reflective songs about love and modern life — especially those of a mature Southern man seeking balance between the past and present. His recent hit, "Meanwhile Back At Mama's," a duet with wife Faith Hill, epitomizes his strengths. McGraw's tempered voice, all restrained emotion, conveys how the anchor of family helps him deal with the pressures of daily life.
His current single, "Shotgun Rider," and complicated relationship songs like "Sick of Me," show how good McGraw is at real-life situations, buoyed by Gallimore's atmospheric production. The veteran also offers a welcome surprise with "Diamond Rings And Barstools," which brings a contemporary context to old-school country sounds and themes.
But too many hazy sentiments — in the songs "City Lights," ''Looking For That Girl," ''Keep on Truckin'" — keep the collection from achieving the glowing consistency of McGraw's best work.