14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on January 26, 2012
I'm not a huge country fan, and besides his movie roles I only accidentally discovered Tim McGraw & his music a couple of weeks ago when I read that he's the son of one of my Miracle Mets heroes, Tug McGraw (the subject of "Live Like you were Dying"), and then read further that he's got a good head on his shoulders too. I bought his #1's double album because it was $5 and I wanted to get to know his music better. Well, I only liked about half of his previous hits. I much prefer Garth Brooks. Then Amazon featured Emotional Traffic for $3.99. The clips sounded pretty good, and different, so I bought it. Wow! From the onset of the first unique track "Halo", I knew I was in for something special, kind of like when Loretta Lynn recorded "Portland Oregon." I love progressive country rock, and this album crosses over into that genre as well as others, including pop/R&B with the Ne Yo duet. The production seems to favor rock guitars, which is fine with me. It sounds even even better with headphones. There still is some twang, and the requisite Jesus song, but even those are palatable. Great job, Tim, this is one of my favorite albums in quite some time!
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on January 25, 2012
Love Good Music, I enjoy finding an artist that I really never related to and be totally awe'd by it and on this release, I took in these songs as they came out and now that the whole 12 songs are out and I've listened to it as a whole I gave this one a Big 5 stars, this is quite a listening experience, never new Tim Mcgraw had all these sides to him and has put together a collection of tunes that is so varied and has so much to say about life. Getting older and looking at things in your 40's and looking back and remembering all those little things makes for an interesting Hybrid of musical styles of Country, Rock, Adult Contemporary, Pop and even a little Funk! not an easy feat for any artist but this is a welcome kick in the musical ass, glad to find this gem! If you're like me and you have so many styles in your collection from blues, rock, folk, world and everything in between, give this one a listen, its good! Great real songwriting!
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 25, 2012
Tim has long been a favorite of mine. A main-stay in my top 5 artists. This release does nothing to move him out of that category, however, it does nothing to move him any higher either.
In recent years, Tim has taken to recording with his road band, The Dancehall Doctors, which has helped give his albums a more Country feel than the releases from the late 90's. In 2009, with Southern Voice, we heard Tim start to eveolve a little more, and add a little more Rock to the Country, but in a much more cohesive and powerful way than what he had done years before. With this release, it sounds as if Tim took a musical trip back to his Pre-Road-Band-In-The-Studio days. While some might see this as a bad thing, and I myself, was hoping it wouldn't be this way, Emotional Traffic has turned out to be a very powerful album. Sadly, Tim's band only performs on one track here, and you can here imediately, that their influence is gone from the rest of the record. But if you remember back to his brilliant Set This Circus Down, you'll remember that Tim had a lot of musical magic even without his band in tow.
We are treated to some arrangements that Tim hasn't really used in the past, to give some of the tunes a darker, jazzy type feel. The first two tracks are the best evidence of this. There is the token McGraw penned song, which has become par only in recent years. These are usually good, stand-out tracks, and the ballad chosen here is no different. Very strong and well produced, and even co-written with a woman who knows her ballads, Martina McBride.
The inclusion of last year's smash Felt Good On My Lips fits very well on this album, and it's placement in the running order provides the perfect kick once the tempo starts to slow.
Something I'm not used to getting with a McGraw album, is the singles being the strongest tracks. But here, sadly enough, it is true. Not to take away from the other songs, but the record company made a good push to get the better tracks on the radio.
Overall, it seems Tim has become not too offended about them "Put(ing) pop in (his) Country" anymore. It's not what I expected in this point in Tim's career, but the album does stand out as a very well performed and produced piece, which will seemingly stand the test of time. Emotional Traffic will get better with each listen, as does each of Tim's releases, and will remain a beloved part of any fan's collection.
Stand out tracks include;
The Rocking but mellow opener, "Halo."
The curent radio hit "Better Than I used to Be."
The Christianity-on-sleeve "Touchdown Jesus."
Last Year's rocker "Felt Good On My Lips."
McGraw's own, Inspirational "I Will Not Fall Down."
The Introspective closer "Die By My Own Hand."
17 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on January 24, 2012
Emotional Traffic is an eclectic album that throughout its 12 tracks, one that touches on country, R&B and rock-at times utilizing multiple genres on the same songs. Listening through Emotional Traffic is, as its title suggests, to hear a convergence of various emotions from the bitterness of Halo and the flirty love of Right Back Atcha Babe, from the oddly uplifting yet downbeat The One That Got Away to the outright inspirational Touchdown Jesus. Along the way you stand in an intersection of musical styles and genres that produce 12 undeniably unique sounding and feeling songs. As a listening experience, Emotional Traffic will keep you on your toes and I can almost guarantee that whatever you hear or read about this album good or bad (and there is going to be plenty of both), that the songs sounding the same will not be one of them.
With that said, let me be perfectly clear: this is not an album for people who are solely fans of Tim's earlier work or more "traditional" country (or traditional contemporary country...if there even is such a thing). Because of its eclectic and near constant genre bending approach, Emotional Traffic is going to be an album that appeals a little to a lot of people and a lot to a few people. In short, the more variety of music you've got on your CD shelf or iPod, the more likely you will be to enjoy more, if not all, of this album. And whereas its predecessor Southern Voice had a clear and concise theme running through it, the only real theme on Emotional Traffic is the lack of one and while to some that might suggest an album that has been just thrown together, nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, it's because of this diversity along with the fact that throughout the 12 songs Tim turns in greatest vocal performances of his career, that Emotional Traffic is the outstanding album that it is.
I'd give this song 10/5 if I could-it's that incredible. About 8 seconds into Halo you realize this isn't any ordinary track when Tim's soaring harmony vocals drop out of nowhere into the music leading right into the heart wrenching lyric "let's just cut it down the middle, let it bleed out-I'll clean up the mess, baby you stand there and shout; cry, cry-baby I can't hold us together". From there Halo quickly becomes one the most lyrically rich and well produced songs the artist has recorded over his expansive career. Halo tells a simple story: the demise of romantic relationship. But Halo is special because it's a totally raw and unbridled expression of that-a unique combination of anger and sadness that Tim somehow never allows to come across as cheap or snide. The man in this song clearly feels like the wronged one and that, while he's under attack, the woman is taking some kind of self-righteous high ground. It's a deep (and daring for such a mainstream artist) material and Tim's delivery feels so genuine-you almost feel him cowering emotionally when he sings "paint me in a corner, cover me with rage-I'll take it like a circus lion, silent in my cage" just as you hear his voice drip with bitterness 10 seconds later as the song leaps into the chorus "baby I'll let go when you say so, try to let your heart fly free; I crawl out of my cradle, down into my black hole....and you just lay low under your halo". All of this is combined with just unbelievable music; steel pedal guitar soars off to the left and slightly "up" in the mix, while near hard rock guitar plays out of the right channel. Multi-layered vocals and some wicked drumming provide a dark wall of sound that makes the emotions in Tim's vocals leap out of your speakers. I can't think of a song in recent memory that as better expressed the complex mix of emotions that comes with the end of a romantic relationship: anger, bitterness, sadness, longing, dismissiveness-it's hard to pull off in any cohesive manner, but Halo does. Emotional Traffic is worth the price of admission for this song alone.
The One That Got Away: 5/5
I've owned songwriter David Pahanish's version for years and it's always been a favorite song of mine; when I first saw it on the track listing for the album I was thrilled (and one of the few people that didn't automatically think "Katy Perry"). As a sidebar: I'm so sick of any discussion of such a brilliant song as this getting sidetracked by a simple thing as similar song titles and so that its perfectly clear this song was not only written nearly a decade ago, it was recorded by Tim before Perry's song was even written. This song is a story song very much in the vein of those on Southern Voice that speaks to a girl that gets out of her hometown where seemingly no one believes in her and makes it big as a singer. As usual, Tim takes what could be a fairly narrow topic/story and sings it so that you can associate with it yourself; I grew up in a town of 1,000 people and was surrounded by naysayers my entire young life but managed pull myself up, earn full scholarships and become very successful personally and professionally so I feel lyrics like "you kept your place in the gutter for years but kept your eyes on the road; you always felt you were meant for more, well baby now you know". Musically, this is probably the richest song atmospherically on the album; while Halo is right there, it's so raw you can't really fall into the song-while with this one you can....you just relax into it and feel the story. Much will be made of the voice effects (and no, you can't tell what Tim is saying out of the right channel-I believe whatever it is has been recorded backwards), but I think they add to the songs "dark" atmosphere. A song about coming from little and becoming something better than others think you can be.
I Will Not Fall Down: 5/5
This song was co-written by Tim, Martina McBride and the Warren Brothers and, in may regards, this is the most "generic" song on the album...the music doesn't really deliver anything special and the whole feel of the track is very "anthemic" but it connects with me personally so that and what some will probably point to as repetitiveness in the lyrics is perfectly fine. At its core, this song is a heartfelt expression of standing tall and proud while leaning on what matters most in this fast paced "onto to the next great (and younger) thing" world that is passing you by and trying to push you aside. The chorus soars on this emotion with Tim singing "I will not fall down, I will not fall down, I will not fall down without getting up....that's when I need your love". This is definitely a song for the mature listener; you have to be a certain age and have experienced life enough to find a kinship with lyrics like "no one wants to think about getting older, they try to push you out before it's over; the same world that lifts you up can put you in your place. What they call progress will never wait for me and I should probably just go out quietly, but I've still got something left to say". A simple, yet poignant quick hitter that strikes at the heart of growing older and staying strong.
Only Human: 5/5
Much will be made of this song (both positive and negative) because of the collaboration with Ne-Yo, but I just hope that doesn't take away from what a special song this is. First of all, yes the duet works; I don't know how...but somehow there is the perfect fusion of country and R&B and Tim and Ne-Yo's voices are very much suited to each other. Lyrically, this song has some of the best lyrics on the entire album and anyone that has lived through trials, missed chances and unmet expectations can relate when Tim comes right out of the gate singing "the kiss that never happened, the call that never came; the hurt you mask by laughing, the one that got away. It's all in a day of emotional traffic, stranded broken and tragic; finding out you're only human is hard". I love the phrase "emotional traffic"-it's so dead on what each and every one of experiences everyday as emotional beings and the toll it has on us. Another gut wrenching song about the obstacles and trials we all endure with a redeeming message of hope for better things to come.
Right Back Atcha Babe: 5/5
I'm going to be totally honest....I didn't like this song on first blush. But it's amazing what a half a dozen good
listens does because now I absolutely love it. Tim always does a song like this now and again and they're usually not my favorite-but this one is different because it's so, well...sweet and honest. To my fellow men? Take a lesson from this song-if you want to see your wife look at you lovingly at you after 5 or 10 years, remembering and expressing to her little things that happened between the two of you in the past you loved is the way to do it. This song really connected with me when I listened to it with my wife in mind-then it made me smile and tear up at the same time and its awesome to hear what is usually a mean spirited saying turned on its ear when Tim sings "well if what comes around goes around....you've got it made-right back atcha babe". Musically the song is fun and flirtatious and is a perfect match for the lyrics and delivery and the extended solo at the end a welcome non-formulaic addition. A fun, lovingly delivered song about what it feels like to be loved and love someone back just as much even after many years.
Die By My Own Hand: 5/5
This is a song originally recorded by Halfway to Hazard, a duo that had their debut album produced by Byron Gallimore and Tim as well as supported the last Tim/Faith tour. Lyrically it's always been one of my favorite songs because I have an affinity for songs that speak to the concept of being your own worst enemy as well as songs that express how others can make us better than are-both topics covered by this song. I like aspects of both versions; H2H's version is more detailed instrumentally which I like but Tim's version is more impactful atmospherically-the lush arrangements allow you just relax into the song plus Tim's delivery has more kick. An excellent album closer which laments the self destructiveness we are all capable of while taking responsibility for it at the same time.
Better Than I Used to Be: 5/5
Easily the most straight ahead country track on the album (and one of the most straight ahead country singles of his career), Better Than I Used to Be is plain and simple the best vocal performance of Tim McGraw's career. The simple yet present instrumentation allows Tim's voice to take front and center stage and he uses every bit of his natural ability to convey emotion on every word-it's a reminder of his earlier work; I hear A LOT of the Everywhere album in this track and what made that album great. There is nothing particularly outstanding about this song musically or topically-it's pretty standard, though incredibly well written and executed, country fare that allows the message to be the central focus. As complimentary as I am of Tim's adventurous spirit musically and no matter how much I enjoy waiting for every album not knowing what he's going to do next, I really feel it would be incredible if he did a whole album along the lines of this song...kind of an Everywhere 2.0. In any event, this song is a powerful shot of emotion that is grand slam in Tim's hands.
Touchdown Jesus: 5/5
This song takes it place alongside Better Than I Used to Be as firmly in the country category with strong country instrumentation and subject matter. While I like the message of inspiration and the two stories the song tells, somehow I keep struggling with the use of a football analogy in conjunction with Jesus....something about it doesn't quite fit. With that said, there's no denying the intent of the song and the impact it has. One of the simplest and shortest songs on the album, this one probably packs the most punch in terms of the subject matter.
Felt Good On My Lips: 5/5
Yes I gave it 5 out of 5-sorry folks, this is a great song; the lyrics are clever and aside from a somewhat out of place "I want to go crazy, you can go crazy too" it's a rocking, flirty and fun song. No it's not going to be played at your local line dance, but apparently it resonated somewhere because despite the near constant body blows this song has received, it was a number 1 hit on country radio.
Hey Now: 5/5
Many have noted the lightness and levity that seems to run through most of Emotional Traffic (especially in stark contrast to its predecessor) and Hey Now is a key component of that. This is just simply a fun and flirty song and I laughed when I first heard it because I thought "it's the first part of Right Back Atcha Babe, at the beginning when they first meet...and Right Back Atcha is 10 years later". The music is quick and almost intoxicatingly danceable and no matter what I do, at work, at home I find my body moving to the rhythm. The theme is basic-guy about to leave bar, sees pretty girl, stays to see where it might lead-I can see Kenny Chesney doing this song as much as Tim with the way Kenny does fun, good times songs, but Tim does a great job on one of the more just pure fun songs he's done in some time.
The One: 5/5
I jokingly refer to this song as "Something Like That 10 years later" and it's very true including even several references to a fair. Musically, the song starts out with an awesome very retro sounding guitar hook and he lyrics and feel of the song has the same flirty feel of Right Back Atcha Babe. The song is a bit repetitive at the end with the overuse of "The One" but it does so to really drive home the point of the one home for both parties in the song. One the key tracks in giving the album its lighthearted undertones.
One Part, Two Part: 5/5
A very funky track that has been billed as a duet with Faith Hill but really is just more of Faith singing some harmony vocals that are pushed higher up in the mix than usual. Using what might on the surface an overly simple play on words, the song develops into a full on statement of an imbalance between the positive and negative/good and bad in a relationship. Tim and Faith's voices mesh together flawlessly as they so often do and by the end of the song you find yourself tapping your foot and moving to the exceptional guitar work and funky beat.
When it's all said and done, Emotional Traffic is a showcase-a showcase of what an incredibly diverse artist Tim McGraw is. Very few, if any, artists in country music (or any genre for that matter) can tackle and successfully execute such a broad spectrum of musical styles and certainly not on the same album. In fact, it actually occurred to me partway through my second listen of the album that he may in fact have had that as his goal: to show potential new labels what he could do-or maybe knowing this was his swan song with Curb he simply felt liberated enough to do what he wanted.
Whatever the motivation, Emotional Traffic is an undeniable tour de force-an example of the good things that can happen when an immensely talented artist stretches his wings, tries new things and steps outside the box that some would like to keep him in. Is it going to win over any of the many country traditionalists that have long shunned McGraw for being a crossover wannabe? No. Will it retain and possibly gain fans with more multi-faceted musical tastes? Yes. As Tim eluded to on Things Change, one of the benchmark tracks from Set This Circus Down (ironically his first album with Curb under the deal signed of which Emotional Traffic is the last), "some say it's too country, some say it's too rock n' roll, but it's just good music if you can feel it in your soul" sometimes you have to push outside of the boundaries put up by a certain type of music and take some chances to have music feel alive, fresh and impactful. I've always asserted that Tim McGraw is at his best when he takes chances-when he pushes the boundaries of not so much what he can do, but what the musical genre he is a part of says he can or rather should do. Emotional Traffic pushes the boundaries a lot and the album, McGraw as an artist, the music industry in general and, perhaps most importantly of all, the listener is better for it.