Music

ALBUM REVIEW | COUNTRY

Garth Brooks, ‘Man Against Machine’

Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images

It was a troubling sign when country music titan Garth Brooks released “People Loving People” as the lead single from “Man Against Machine,” his first album of all-new material in 14 years.

Presumably for this momentous release, which would be showcased on his current tour, Brooks was offered the best tunes available. (He also co-wrote three.) But that blandly uplifting first taste was underwhelming.

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The rest of “Machine” ascends from there, but only sporadically matches Brooks at his peak. The baker’s dozen tracks on the collection break like so: two classics, six above-average cuts, and six songs, like “People,” that are just fine.

Brooks’s fans will be pleased that he hits all his touchstones, including a cowboy song (the “Sweet Baby James”-esque “Cowboys Forever”), catchy midtempo rockers (the clever “Cold Like That”), a stone country number (the silly-fun shuffle “Rodeo and Juliet”), and a ruminative ballad (“Midnight Train”).

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The two best songs arrive last. “You Wreck Me” is a sure-fire winner: Brooks leans into the epic, minor-key lament about watching the one you love, love someone else. And “Tacoma” is a big, successful swing at southern soul; Brooks pushes his voice to the edge, complete with a choir, to help his narrator burn away a bad memory with every mile he drives away from the scene of his broken heart. (Out
Tuesday)

SARAH RODMAN


ESSENTIAL “You Wreck Me”

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