My Kind of Country

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

Album Review: Toby Keith – ‘Dream Walkin”

91o+pLohEcL._SL1416_After being bounced around between PolyGram Nashville’s various imprints, Toby Keith found himself back at his original label Mercury, for 1997’s Dream Walkin’, which also found him working with co-producer James Stroud for the first time. Stroud co-produced all of Toby’s albums through 2005 and was part of his big commercial breakthrough that would begin about a year later with “How Do You Like Me Now?” That in-your-face record marked a huge change of direction for Keith, so it is somewhat surprising to find that the first Keith-Stroud collaboration is such a tame affair.

There was little at this early date to suggest that the Keith-Stroud partnership would last for nearly a decade. In fact, for a while it looked like it might have been a big mistake. Dream Walkin’ was certified gold, achieving about half the sales level of Toby’s previous albums and it was his first album not to produce any number one hits. That being said, it did produce three Top 5 singles, while a fourth just made the Top 40.

The album is more pop/AC leaning than Keith’s earlier albums, so it was a bit of a creative stretch, with mixed results. The first single “We Were In Love”, which peaked at #2 is a bit too slickly produced for my liking, although Stroud and Keith managed to resist the urge to turn it into a bombastic mess as other artists and producers undoubtedly would have. British rocker Sting made his only entry on the country charts when he joined Toby for a remake of his hit “I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying”. It is like “We Were In Love” in two ways: it peaked at #2, and it’s not quite my cup of tea. I like the title track a lot better. “Dream Walkin'”, which peaked at #5 is probably my favorite of Toby’s early singles. Based on the title, “Double Wide Paradise” seems like something that Toby would record in the next stage of his career, but the song itself is terrible from both a lyrical and production standpoint. Radio apparently agreed; the record died at #40, making it Keith’s lowest charting single up to that time. I didn’t even realize that it had been a single.

Like the singles, the rest of the album is somewhat of a mixed bag. “You Don’t Anymore”, which Toby wrote with Eric Silver, is a decent ballad. I’d like to hear Toby re-do “Jacky Don Tucker (Play By The Rules Miss All The Fun)” and “She Ran Away with a Rodeo Clown” (also a Keith original); I suspect both would get a less restrained treatment today. The remaining album cuts are forgettable filler, with the exception of the closing track, the excellent “I Don’t Understand My Girlfriend”, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The trademark Toby Keith humor and the western swing arrangement make it the album’s standout track.

Dream Walkin’ was the last album Toby released on Mercury. He and Stroud recorded one more album, “How Do You Like Me Now?”, which the label refused to release, prompting Keith to ask for a release from his contract. He purchased the rights to the album and released it on DreamWorks, where it was just the beginning of bigger and better things. Although not his best work, Dream Walkin’ can be obtained cheaply both on CD and as a digital download, and as such, is worth a listen.

Grade: B

4 responses to “Album Review: Toby Keith – ‘Dream Walkin”

  1. Jonathan Pappalardo October 9, 2015 at 11:17 am

    Toby made sure it was never a secret how bullshit he was about having to do the duet with Sting. I don’t know the circumstances that brought the two together, but Toby wasn’t happy about it.

    I was obsessed with “Dream Walkin'” at the time of it’s release to radio. “We Were In Love” is another favorite of mine, too. Unlike a lot of his earlier material, both songs have held up really well.

    • luckyoldsun October 9, 2015 at 10:21 pm

      That an international superstar like Sting would agree to record a duet with Toby and to perform it publicly with him and Toby would carp about it–and seemingly trash the other artist? I thought it was bizarre at the time and I still do. I can’t think of anything I’ve ever heard that’s equivalent to Toby’s behavior there.

  2. Andrew October 9, 2015 at 8:15 pm

    He actually did re-do “Jacky Don Tucker” it’s on the soundtrack for his movie “Broken Bridges”.

  3. Paul W Dennis October 10, 2015 at 7:55 am

    Probably my least favorite Toby Keith album as his personality was almost missing from the album. I recall hearing Toby say in a radio interview that his intent was to record “I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying” as a solo endeavor but the label wanted otherwise

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