Album review | Country

Tim McGraw, ‘Sundown Heaven Town’

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If Tim McGraw took a few interesting risks on 2013’s “Two Lanes of Freedom,” he’s back to business as more-or-less usual on “Sundown Heaven Town.”

While there is nothing as giddily enjoyable as the left-field “Mexicoma” or as lovely as “Book of John,” the 13-track “Sundown” is a solid effort featuring a few stand-out tracks, slightly better than average radio fare, and some pleasant filler. McGraw does a creditable job of sidestepping any naked pandering to trends, balancing authentic country atmosphere with pop polish.

It’s meaningful in the current climate that McGraw opens with a song awash in prominent banjo, mandolin, and pedal-steel licks, “Overrated,” a chugging ode to love being all we need.


Elsewhere, there’s a real back-porch warmth to ballads like the wistful “Portland, Maine” and the melancholy saloon song “Diamond Rings and Barstools.” And “Sick of Me” is a soaring anthem in the mold of McGraw favorite Lionel Richie, which indulges his propensity for squealing, sometimes disruptive rock guitar solos.

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The breezy “Keep on Truckin’ ” is the best of the radio bait, featuring a “whoa-oh-oh” singalong chorus — one of several here — and a cadence that will likely make it a popular concert arm-waver. (Out Tuesday)


ESSENTIAL “Diamond Rings and Barstools”