Album review: Toby Keith, White Trash With Money (Show Dog Nashville)
Country star Toby Keith came to mainstream attention after his musical response to 9/11, “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue (The Angry American).” The tune, which spawned a public feud with those pinko Dixie Chicks, pleased fist-pumping patriots from sea to shining sea with its jingoistic lyrics: “You'll be sorry that you messed with the U.S. of A./Cause we'll put a boot in your ass, it's the American way.”
Weirdly enough, Keith later admitted he was a Democrat, albeit a conservative one who may or may not have voted for George W. Bush’s re-election. At any rate, there’s no doubt that he supports the troops (exhibit A: the liner notes of his new CD, White Trash With Money), though he hasn’t lately sounded off on other political issues. Most of the tracks on White Trash concern women (good, bad, and mocked-for-being-overweight, as in the boorish “Runnin’ Block”), workin’ hard, and drinkin’, plus a song that muses -- in the grand tradition of country-music wordplay -- “There ain’t no right way to do the wrong thing.”
Clearly, Keith spends most of his waking hours writing new material; he’s released over a dozen, mostly hit-spawning albums since his 1993 debut. VH-1 Country had scarcely pulled the video for “I Ain’t As Good As I Once Was” (from 2005’s Honkytonk University, his final release on DreamWorks Nashville before the launch of his own label, Show Dog Nashville) from heavy rotation before his latest good-time clip, “Get Drunk and Be Somebody,” made its first appearance. (My favorite Keith video remains his “Beer for My Horses” duet with Willie Nelson, which plays out like CSI: Urban Cowboy).
So how’s the new album? Does it even matter? Isn’t Keith critic-proof by now? On White Trash, he basically operates on three speeds: raucous rocker (“Get Drunk,” “Grain of Salt”); reflective, mid-tempo crooner (“A Little Too Late,” “Can’t Buy You Money”); and earnest balladeer (“Crash Here Tonight,” “Too Far This Time”). Still, despite his assorted shortcomings, I'll take this bar-brawlin’ Keith over country’s other Keith -- the paralyzingly dull, Nicole Kidman-betrothed Keith Urban -- any time.
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