Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Album Review: Toby Keith - Clancy's Tavern

Toby Keith is one of the most polarizing performers in country music.  Many stand by him and his patriotic views.  Others, like me, tire quickly of the political country (a point I have made before on this blog).  Nobody, however, can deny that Toby has been extremely successful.  This, Keith's 15th album (not counting Christmas or Greatest Hits), will likely become the ninth album to reach #1 on the country albums chart.

Made In America - Keith leads off with not only the ONLY political song on the album, it is probably the least divisive political song he has released.   "Made In America" also became Toby's 20th #1 single.  The song is about  his father, who is American to his core: "He's got the red, white, blue flyin' high on his farm/ 'Semper Fi' tattooed on his left arm/ Spend a little more in the store for a tag in the back says 'USA'/ Won't buy nothin' that he can't fix/ With WD-40 and a Craftsman wrench/ He ain't prejudiced/ He's just/ Made in America" Keith sings in the chorus.  The anthem is a good picture of who Toby is and will resonates with a lot of country music fans.

I Need To Hear A Country Song - Toby follows up with a song about heartbreak.  He does not want to go through what he is going alone.  He wants to share his experience, even if it is not with someone physically in the room.  Many can relate to the words: "I need to hear a loser cryin'/ Songs about a love that's dying/ Lyin' Cheatin' to the bone/ Three chord, stone cold country song".

Clancy's Tavern - The title track is actually a follow-up of sorts to the song "Honkytonk U" from 2005.  This, a waltz with an Irish drinking song tone, is more of a tribute to his grandmother than the previously mentioned track.  Although it is not the second music video to come from the album, it is the second single.  The song is a breath of fresh air, breaking away from the standard sound of country music.

Tryin' To Fall In Love - The title of the song betrays it's mood.  I expected another slow song about attempts at love, but what I got is a fun, upbeat song.  "If women come a dime a dozen/ I ain't got a penny/ Some guys are gettin' way too much/ Some guys don't get any/ But if I had a nickel for every time I've had enough/ I'd still be busted and heartbroken/ Still tryin' to fall in love".

Just Another Sundown - Toby moves back to the heartbreak songs here.  The song is not one that stands out, but the acoustic melody really adds to the feeling.

Beers Ago - "Beers Ago" is an example of the my only real complaint about this album, the mixing does not flow well.  "Beers" is what Toby does really well, a fast-paced, fun country song.  The problem is that it is sandwiched between "Sundown" and "South Of You", both songs about heartbreak.  Unlike most artists, this is Keith's own fault, as he not only recorded the album, but he produced it as well.

South Of You - As mentioned, Keith comes back to the heartbreak song once again.  This one, honestly, feels a little more suited as a Kenny Chesney song, as Keith sings about getting away from the girl by sailing out to the islands.  There is nothing inherently wrong with the song, but it does not feel like what we are used to from Toby.

Club Zydeco Moon - Not sure what it is about Toby, but he seems to have a weak spot for strippers (See "Bullets in the Gun" off his previous album of the same name).  This song comes across as an alternate ending for that song, sort of describing what would have happened if they had not run off together to Mexico.  The answer?  More heartbreak, with Toby eventually avoiding the bar where he met the girl.

I Won't Let You Down - Rather than a heartbreak song, Toby is finally singing about making love work.  The song is great advice for women, men are not perfect.  If you do not expect us to be, we will not let you down.  It is not about convincing girls to lower their standards, but it is about letting us surprise you with what we ARE capable of, instead of being disappointed by what we are not.

Red Solo Cup - A song that Keith himself accurately describes as "Adorable and very very stupid", this song will get stuck in your head and show no signs of leaving for days.  The song is a tribute to what Toby describes in the opening line as "the best receptacle/ For barbecues, tailgates, fairs, and festivals/"  The song is  several run-on sentences, but is so much fun that it is sure to be a hit.  The music video features cameos from Jeff Dunham, Larry Bird, Craig Ferguson, Carrot Top, Ted Nugent and fellow country star Eric Church.

Chill-axin' - Another song that sounds better suited for Kenny Chesney, Keith closes out the main part of the album with a song about getting away from it all, whether to the beach or out to the country.  The song feels really awkward following "Red Solo Cup" and the album probably would have benefited from flipping the order of the last two songs.

Overall, it is nice to hear Toby Keith step away from much of his political grandstanding that has dominated the artist for several years.  This creates an album everyone can enjoy, regardless of political affiliation.  The only problem that this album presents is a poor distribution of songs.  The album would have been much improved if they had sat back and listened a little closer to the flow between the songs.  If not for that, the album would have gotten a much higher rating: 7/10

Note:  The deluxe edition of the album features Toby Keith's band, the Incognito Banditos, doing live covers of four songs: Waylon Jennings' "High Time (You Quit Your Low Down Ways)", Buck Owens' "Truck Drivin' Man", Three Dog Night's "Shambala" and Chuck Berry's "Memphis".

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