Country star Tim McGraw, whose last two albums, Not a Moment Too Soon and All I Want, sold a combined 7 million copies, built his career on two styles of song: the heartbreak ballad and the roots-rock rave-up. But it was the ballads that best captured McGraw's persona as a hard-luck antihero.
In the two years since All I Want's release, McGraw, 30, has become a millionaire, married country's Faith Hill, had a daughter, and gained respect as a producer. His fourth album, Everywhere, reflects these life changes.
Two tunes in particular seem to address this new stability. ''It's Your Love,'' featuring Hill, is the saga of a loser who's won the romantic lottery. It's also sentimental dreck. McGraw fares better on ''Where the Green Grass Grows,'' in which a boy tires of the glittering city life and looks to raise his kids where there aren't ''bars on the corners, bars on my heart.''
Indeed, while several tracks suggest that the singer can still grow wistful for old attachments, on the MOR ''One of These Days'' McGraw says he now looks within himself for peace of mind.
As the album's coproducer, McGraw might also have searched for a killer ballad or rhythm number that carried his personal stamp. Instead, he fills out Everywhere with tunes (''I Do But I Don't,'' ''Just to See You Smile'') that mine the pure country of George Strait, and tepid rockers like ''You Turn Me On'' (a retread of his hit ''I Like It, I Love It,'' minus the charm).
Everywhere chronicles a man in transition. And therein lies the danger. In country, divorce makes for better music than marriage. Whether McGraw's new happiness mellows him to the point of blandness is a question best answered by album number five. B