My Kind of Country

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

Album Review: Toby Keith – ‘Hope On The Rocks’

The most prolific of today’s mainstream acts, and the only person around who seems able to release full length albums, with generally all self-written material, on an annual schedule, Toby Keith is back with his latest. The excellent title track is about the secret sorrows of a bar room crowd as imagined by the bartender who concludes, “I’m all they’ve got – hope on the rocks”. The melody is a bit limited, but the lyric is thoughtful and sympathetic. Although Toby wrote every song on the record, it is interesting that this, the only one he composed solo, is by far the best.

The catchy top 20 hit ‘I Like Girls That Drink Beer’ is surprisingly likeable, with its preference for ordinary girls over the wealthy country club lady he is leaving. Like the bulk of the album’s selections, it is a co-write by Toby with Bobby Pinson.

The best of these is ‘Haven’t Seen The Last Of You’, a reflective depiction of the aftermath of a failed relationship which also benefits from pretty harmonies from Mica Roberts. Set a bit further down the line, ‘Missed You Just Right’ is also pretty good, with the protagonist having finally moved on from an unsatisfactory ex, and found the real love of his life as a result.

‘Get Got’ offers some highly cliche’d life advice (although the warning not to “mix whiskey with decision” is certainly a good tip for anyone who hasn’t already figured that out), and the arrangement and production are too loud. The hard living trucker’s confession, ‘Haven’t Had A Drink All Day’ is also too loud although it isn’t a bad song with plenty of energy.

‘Cold Beer Country’, written by Keith, Pinson and Marc Fortney of Trailer Choir, is a cheerful paean to hot summer days drinking beer, with a Dixieland jazz opening reminiscent of some of Haggard’s work in that style. This might work as a summer single.

Scotty Emerick co-wrote the downbeat ‘You Ain’t Alone’, depicting a lonely man brooding over the departure of his loved one, which is not bad. ‘The Size I Wear’ (written with Rivers Rutherford) is one of Keith’s rather clumsy, sexist, barely post-adolescent attempts at humor, which probably works better for a male audience than it does for me. He and Rutherford also wrote the rather better ‘Scat Cat’. This is a fairly interesting tale of a family moonshine operation and escaping the law, with a bluesy groove which I enjoyed.

Grade: B

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