My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Tim McGraw – ‘Emotional Traffic’

Were I unaware of the longstanding feud between Tim McGraw and Curb Records, and the resulting lawsuit surrounding the release of Emotional Traffic, I would likely be asking myself what on earth Tim was thinking when he recorded this collection. It’s difficult to imagine that he thought his fans were clamoring for an album of overproduced junk that, with only a few exceptions, is far removed from the realm of country music. One possible explanation is that it is an act of deliberate sabotage on Tim’s part, a parting shot at an unscrupulous company that went to great lengths to extend his contract term. It seems like a stretch at first, but the more I listened to the album, the more plausible the theory seems. While I do think that Curb treated McGraw shabbily, I’m slightly more sympathetic towards them after giving Emotional Traffic several spins. While Curb’s legal objections to Emotional Traffic were concerned with the timeframe in which the album was recorded, a more meritorious argument would have been that it doesn’t meet the standards of McGraw’s earlier work and that it provides them with very little usable material to promote to country radio. Make no mistake, this is one hot mess of a record.

Emotional Traffic was co-produced by Tim and Byron Gallimore, who has had a hand in producing Tim’s records since the very beginning of his career. Originally recorded in 2010, the album was shelved in favor of a redundant hits compilation and was then further delayed by the court case. One track, “Felt Good on My Lips” was released as a single in September 2010 and made it to #1. Though I’m not overly fond of the song, it does have a catchy melody, and despite its throwaway, fluffy lyrics, it’s one of three songs on the album that is at least tolerable. It was written by the Warren Brothers — who contributed four songs to the album — along with Brett Beavers and Jim Beavers. This foursome also collaborated on the rather annoying and sing-songy “Hey Now.” Tim himself shares songwriting credits along with Brett and Brad Warren and Martina McBride on “I Will Not Fall Down”, an introspective song about getting older that aims to be inspirational (“I will not fall down without getting up”), which ultimately falls flat due to the constant repetition of the title line, over-processed vocals and too-busy production.

“Touchdown Jesus”, written by Rhett Akins, Dallas Davidson, and Ben Hayslip is not a great song but it’s infinitely superior to most of the other offerings here. It has the potential to be a hit single, and I think I could get to like it more with repeated listenings, although it does degenerate into a bombastic gospel-like song towards the end.

Of the twelve tracks on this album, only one — the current single “Better Than I Used To Be” — is truly good — although, as Occasional Hope recently pointed out, it cannot compete with Sammy Kershaw’s far superior version. Nevertheless, I’m glad that someone who is still getting radio airplay decided to give it a chance. The only truly country-sounding song on the album, it is currently on the verge of cracking the Top 20 and will likely reach the higher rungs of the chart.

With the exceptions of “Better Than I Used To Be”, “Touchdown Jesus” and the mediocre “Felt Good On My Lips”, I’m afraid that I found Emotional Traffic to be quite unlistenable, and I imagine that all but the most dedicated McGraw fans will be disappointed in it. While Tim has never been one of my favorite artists, he has had a knack for picking some very good material in the past. Hopefully he has some better songs on hold for his next project once the remaining legal issues play out.

Grade: D

10 responses to “Album Review: Tim McGraw – ‘Emotional Traffic’

  1. Michael A. February 3, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    It seems he’s sticking to his story that this material is among the best he’s recorded. Not a good sign for the future, I’m afraid.

    • Occasional Hope February 3, 2012 at 1:46 pm

      No. I think Tim’s strength as as an artist has always been his song selection, but that is modified by my impression that he’s better t picking material that is lyrically strong than melodically, and his ear for production isn’t great either.

      I was very disappointed by this after Better Than I Used To Be.

      • Razor X February 3, 2012 at 2:09 pm

        I’ve always liked the way he’s given songs that were written and/or previously recorded by other artists a chance at getting some mainstream recognition — i.e., songs like “Please Remember Me” and “Angry All The Time”. The Rodney Crowell and Bruce Robison versions were better, but not many people got a chance to hear them. He’s done that again here with “Better Than I Used To Be” but the rest of the album is pretty much a trainwreck.

    • Jonathan Pappalardo February 3, 2012 at 8:40 pm

      And listen to his self-released Christmas single from last month “Christmas All Over The World.” I had hope for it since it was a post-Curb self release but it only followed in the direction of this album. I couldn’t believe how horrible that song turned out to be.

      Also, I don’t know where I read it but I saw somewhere that Curb believed there really weren’t any potential singles from the songs on Emotional Traffic. That was one reason they didn’t want to release this album. I don’t know how true that was, or if they just said that to justify further delaying the album, but I remember reading it in one of the thousands of articles regarding the whole Curb lawsuit last year.

  2. Ben Foster February 3, 2012 at 4:13 pm

    I agree. This album is an absolute disaster. I can’t quite buy the idea that McGraw recorded a bad album to spite Curb, as he does genuinely seem to believe in it. I don’t know where Curb stands on issues with regard to the album’s quality level though.

    I don’t think I could even be so generous as to call “Felt Good On My Lips” mediocre. That song just makes me cringe. As for “Better Than I Used to Be,” I echo all of the preceding comments, including those about the superiority of Kershaw’s version.

    • Razor X February 3, 2012 at 9:42 pm

      “Felt Good On My Lips” is not a very good song, but for some reason it seemed to get played a lot at my gym, which is where I heard it most of the time. The lyrics are awful but the tune does tend to get stuck in my head. And it’s still a lot better than most of the rest of the album.

  3. Myra Robinson February 3, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    BOY,I CANNOT BELIEVE THESE COMMENTS. I AM A TRUE TIM FAN AND HAVE BEEN FOR YEARS AND I LOVE ALL HIS MUSIC AND I ESPECIALLY LOVE THIS ALBUM,I BOUGHT TWO OF THIS ONE. MY KID ALSO LOVES IT. TOO BAD YOU DISAPPROVE. BUT HE IS A MUSIC MAN AND WE HAVE TO EXPECT HIS SELECTION TO CHANGE,HE CHANGES ALL THE TIME AND HIS FANS ARE USE TO IT AND THE SALES ARE NOT BAD FOR A LITTLE OVER A WEEK SALES. I AM VERY PROUD OF WHAT HE HAS DONE WITH HIS SELECTION OF MUSIC. I LOVE THIS NEW ALBUM.

  4. Paul W Dennis February 3, 2012 at 11:38 pm

    Just terrible

    This album would need to improve considerably to be worth the “D” rating Razor X gave it

    I’d give it an F+ and that “+” is because of the Sammy Kershaw cover. Otherwise, this album has nothing to recommend it. Absolutely nothing

  5. Andrew Leprich February 4, 2012 at 12:07 am

    Yikes. While I’m not the biggest McGraw fan in the world, I’ve always found his albums to be consistently solid. All of these scathing reviews are making me wonder what happened with this one. Good thing I waited for reviews and didn’t jump on this one immediately.

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