Tim McGraw’s ‘Emotional Traffic:’ ‘Best Album Ever’?

Emotional Traffic Album CoverThe packaging on Tim McGraw’s Emotional Traffic says that its the “best album ever”, but, in my mind that discinction would have to go to either A Place In the Sun or Everwhere. Traffic is an alright album, but no where near McGraw’s best.

The album starts off with ‘Halo’, which from it’s sound and lyrics seems better suited to a off channel teen drama.

Paint me in a corner/
Cover me with rage/
I’ll take it like a circus lion/
Silent in my cage
/cry, cry, baby I can’t change the weather…

…I call outta my cradle
/Down into my black hole/
And you just lay low/
Under your halo

Following that up is ‘Right Back Atcha Babe’. A mondern-day ‘I Got You Babe’ with its random and awkward lyrics.

That night in Phoenix when you stole my jeep/
and you brought it home with a new stereo/
baby that was sweet

Fortunately the catchy melody helps save it from being totally throw-a-way and forgettable.

The above two song are exemplary of the problem with the whole album. The songs sound like they were chosen by someone just starting out vs by a person who has been in the business for nearly two decades. The songs sound all built around the same melody that you would be familiar with if you’ve heard ‘Felt Good On My Lips’ Fortunately, the lyrics of all the songs keep them from sound too similarly alike and blending all together, but it also keeps them from really standing out as well.

There is one song on the album that struck me as the best and up to what I usually expect from Tim: ‘Die By My Own Hand.’ The song is a tune about how we sometimes sabotage our own selves when it comes to love. What I love most about this song is the reflective tragedy of the chorus:

You changed me, baby/
Given enough time, girl, you might have saved me/
Then again you might have just gone crazy/
Trying to love a music man/
Don’t worry, honey/
I understand why you went running from me
I guess I really should have seen it coming/
I always die by my own hand

Replace ‘music’ with ‘rodeo’ and you have my story. This is the other reason that I love this song. This particular cowboy has also died by his own hand. And I’m sure I’m not the only one. This is the kind of song that has that emotional power that resonates with a lot of folks. One of those that you felt was written for you.

For those of you hoping that even if the music isn’t good at least CD booklet will have photos of Tim to look at, you’re going to be dissapointed as well. Most of the photos are taken in shadow; only revealing a little bit of Tim’s face or a silhouette of him. This could have worked well if the album really was about emotional traffic; wrestling with those light and dark parts of yourself as exemplifed in the final track, but, as they are, it seems more like a convention to disguise the age that is slowly creeping up on Tim. Regardless, Tim is still a good looking man and I, along with a lot of other folks, would still enjoy seeing him in full sunlight. Come on, now, there’s no shame in crow’s feet. Heck age has been sending me text messages steady for the past few years–embrace it.

After the dissapointment that I felt with Tim’s previous album Southern Voice, I was really looking forward to Emotional Traffic and I really had hoped that I would love it; that it would live up to the “best album ever” tagging, but it doesn’t. If you are a serious collector of Tim’s work; a fan who has to have every album–good or bad or mediocre–of your favorite artist, go ahead and get Traffic. If you’re just a casual fan, you’re better off just getting individual tracks and if you are somewhere in between, give Traffic a preview before you buy.

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