This post has been updated. See note below for details.
Toby Keith understands honky-tonk life and all its nuances as well as any musician working today, even the parts in which nuance don't figure into the equation.
The Oklahoma country singer and songwriter who's reached the top of the country charts with such quaff-minded odes as "Beer for My Horses," "Whiskey Girl" and "I Love This Bar" clearly hasn't exhausted that wellspring of musical inspiration yet, returning to the corner watering hole several times in the 10 new songs on "Hope on the Rocks." The title track is the best, examining the rocky roads that often lead lost souls to seek refuge in drink. "Where do they go?" Keith asks from the perspective of a bartender who's seen it all yet refuses to judge. "At the end of the day, I'm all they got."
FOR THE RECORD:
Toby Keith: In the Oct. 30 Calendar section, a review of Toby Keith's new album, "Hope on the Rocks," listed the title of his hit single as "I Love This Beer." The title is "I Love This Bar." —
Keith's thinking man arm wrestles with more single-minded characters elsewhere, as in "The Size I Wear," whose comically reductionist sexism won't win him any new admirers among thinking women, while "I Like Girls That Drink Beer" trades on a variation on Garth Brooks' honky-tonk anthem "Friends in Low Places." "Get Got" is an impressive compendium of country wisdom as contained in one-liners such as "Less is more, 'cept love and money" and "Talk less, just listen, you can learn a lot."
Keith has clearly become a skilled listener, a vital trait for any songwriter — or bartender.
Update on Oct. 30: An earlier edition of this post incorrectly listed the title of Keith's hit "I Love This Bar" as "I Love This Beer."
"Hope on the Rocks"
Two and half stars (out of four)