While Tim McGraw and Taylor Swift's vocals on 'Highway Don't Care' would be enough to make the song a hit and one of the best of 2013, it's Keith Urban's guitar that makes the track one of the best collaborations of the decade -- maybe even ever. Each artist brings his or her best effort to the song from McGraw's 'Two Lanes of Freedom' album. It's a sterling example of what can happen when artists are left to be artists, without the handcuffs of music business politics. 

A new emotional climax is reached each time the arrangement slows down for Swift to deliver the almost haunting "I can't live without you, I can't live without you, baby." From there Urban introduces the chorus by way of a few passionate pulls at his guitar strings. Suddenly, the air guitar is cool again.

"The highway won't hold you tonight / The highway don't know you're alive / The highway don't care if you're all alone / But I do, I do / The highway won't dry your tears / The highway don't need you here / The highway don't care if you're coming home / But I do, I do."

'Highway Don't Care' is a roller coaster of emotions that peaks with Urban's solo at the bridge and slowly and satisfyingly brings us back down to Earth with the relatively gentle sounds of McGraw and Swift's harmonies. These two are a wonderful vocal match. There's no sense of one being underutilized to benefit the other, or one being no match for the other's talents. It's her song as much as it is his, with Urban playing more than a complementary roll.

"I bet you got a dead cell phone in your shotgun seat / Yeah, I bet you're bending God's ear talking 'bout me / You're trying not to let the first tear fall out / Trying not to think about turning around / You're trying not to get lost in the sound / But that song is always on so you sing along," McGraw and Swift sing during the second verse.

Mark Irwin, Josh Kear and the Warren Brothers penned this simple song, but the magic is in the performance and the production from McGraw and Byron Gallimore. 'Highway Don't Care' feels like a special moment from the very first listen, and only becomes more cathartic with time.

5 Stars

Listen to Tim McGraw, 'Highway Don't Care' featuring Taylor Swift

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