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Originally published Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 5:30 AM

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Tim McGraw launches ‘Two Lanes of Freedom’

A review of Tim McGraw’s rocked-out “Two Lanes of Freedom.”

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Tim McGraw, ‘Two Lanes of Freedom’ (BigMachine)

If you’ve listened to country radio for a hot minute lately you’ve already heard this album’s smash single, “One of Those Nights,” an irresistible song that couples hazy nostalgia with sizzling rock sexuality. And make no mistake, McGraw may be country, but this is a rock record, from the allusion to Cream’s “Sunshine Of Your Love” on the so-metal’n’macho-it’s-kind-of-funny “Truck Yeah” to the whimsical, Beatles-esque banda (and George Martin-like TexMex accordion) of “Mexicoma.”

And while McGraw’s sandpaper sincerity lies at the heart of the project, this is a producer’s album, rooted in the anthemic, jangling towers of ’80s rock that have animated recent country music, but also stretching beyond, to the sprung, island-ish rhythm of “Southern Girl” (also bound for the singles charts) and the title track, with the bottom (kick drum) and top (banjo) framing a wall of sound.

The themes are familiar — cars, trucks, family, freedom, loves lost and found — but the horizons painted by producer Byron Gallimore (who powered McGraw and his wife, Faith Hill, to a Grammy for 1999’s “Breathe”) are wider than usual for McGraw.

Taylor Swift and Keith Urban guest on the closing power ballad, “Highway Don’t Care,” another potential single on an album that runneth over with possibilities.

Paul de Barros, Seattle Times music critic

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