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Tim McGraw

Southern Voice

American music has countless regional ? loyalties, from New Orleans jazzbos to the rappers who claim their coastal alliances almost compulsively, like beatboxing one-man chambers of commerce. But for pure prideful swagger, it’s pretty tough to beat the South, y’all. The honky-tonking title single on Southern Voice, country superstar Tim McGraw’s latest, name-checks nearly every famous figure born below the Mason-Dixon line, be it Rosa Parks or Will (not William!) Faulkner: ”Tom Petty rocked it/Dr. King paved it/? Bear Bryant won it/Billy Graham saved it.”

It’s the kind of broad-strokes crowd-?pleaser that doesn’t work so well on closer examination (Pocahontas: Not generally known for her sweet-tea recipe). Still, McGraw, one-half of Nashville’s reigning royal couple with wife Faith Hill, knows the platinum reach of his Everyman appeal. And he works it just as well on his rakish ode to a high-maintenance honey, ”It’s a Business Doing Pleasure With You” (”You got me walkin’ past the fellas/Holdin’ drinks with pink ? umbrellas/On some island that I can’t even spell”), as he does on well-calibrated ? heart-tuggers like the mournful blue-collar ballad ”Mr. Whoever You Are.”

McGraw clearly knows his country touchstones, spinning vivid tales from both the Good Book (what-if-God-was-one-of-us parable ”I’m Only Jesus”) and jailbird dads (”You Had to Be There”). Alas, what often feels missing here is something unique to McGraw himself. Consistency and supreme competence aside, Voice seems to tell every story but his own. B

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Southern Voice
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