Toby Keith - "Drinks After Work" Mar 21, 2015 14:06:57 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Mar 21, 2015 14:06:57 GMT -5
Drinks After Work (2013)
By: Toby Keith
By: Toby Keith
There's been an evident hunger inside Toby Keith since the dawn of the new decade, and perhaps since his 2010 album Bullets in the Gun failed to drum up any commercial success, and that hunger is to replicate the kind of monstrous success such early-2000's singles like "I Love This Bar," "I'm Just Talkin' 'Bout Tonight," and "My List" had. Keith had two solid hits in "Beers Ago" and "Red Solo Cup" off of Clancy's Tavern, but those came to pass when his 2012 effort Hope on the Rocks also failed to muster up any kind of buzz or energy on the charts. With that, Keith has cut most of his experimental focus that was found on White Trash With Money, the liberating diversity on Bullets in the Gun, and the down-home nostalgia of Clancy's Tavern and has taken the route of glossy "bro country" with an emphasis on production and "sounding" country without actually trying to be it.
Drinks After Work shows this immediately by opening with two of the weakest songs to be found in Keith's catalog - "Shut Up and Hold On," which sounds like somebody took one of Keith's older tunes and created a techno, shuffle mix of sorts and "Drinks After Work," a lackluster affair that tries so hard to act as a follow-up to "I Love This Bar" but fails due to its inability to resonate and, instead, tries to recreate. The remainder of the album bears a decidedly macho sound, which sees Keith trying to etch in as much of himself into this album as possible, but even on the album's strongest tracks does the bombastic and glaringly-overproduced sound get in the way of Keith's broad, far-reaching vocals. Keith is a vocally-strong man; he doesn't need backing synthesizers and the assistance of an abnormally loud sound-system assisting him in what he already knows how to do and do well.
Sounds like "The Other Side of Him" show Keith trying so hard to stretch his voice to compliment the louder, more boisterous production in a way that distracts from the emotion brought forth in the song, and "Little Miss Tear Stain" evokes that same kind of loud sentiment, mistaking its impact for that of classic, crooning country music. Songs where Keith and the production seem to be on the same page are songs like "Before We Knew They Were Good," which reflects on all the girls Keith thought were just all right, when really, they were incredible and loyal. Keith reminisces about how his only source of revenue was cutting grass, and painting the picture for us of a group of suburban kids trying to get pocket money for lawnmower gas, Marlboro cigarettes, and drive-in movie tickets. This is one of those rare occurrences when Keith is able to balance himself on the same plane as the production, never sounding too feeble in comparison or shooting for the stars and falling short because the production is already on another level, as seen in the aforementioned tunes.
The deluxe edition of Drinks After Work is the first of Keith's deluxe editions that, I've found, includes three studio-recorded tunes rather than live tracks, "bus songs," or remixes of former tracks. "Call a Marine" is a humorous tune about forgoing 911 in a compromising situation and just calling a Marine you know or are acquainted with to help you in a scuffle, sung with Keith's inebriated vocal tone that he used to great effect on "Red Solo Cup." Following that one is "Chuckie's Gone," a surprisingly emotional tune about the sudden death of Chuck Goff, Toby Keith's bassist, in a collision in February 2013. Unlike the sentimental songs on the actual album, this one is subtle and low-key, never being too manipulative emotionally and never showing Keith struggle to match the accompanying overtones of the production. It was like Keith actually got to make the tracks he wanted to make on the bonus tracks of his own album.
Drinks After Work is favorable in some aspects, but it's a dangerous and questionable step for Keith as an artist. Is this the beginning of Keith in the genre of pop country, desperately trying to sell records over creating the music he wants? The 2000's were a huge year for Keith because no matter what he created, it seemed he was at home with his material and, amazingly enough, many successful songs were produced. Being Keith is his own boss, perhaps he wants to restore his limelight-glory, and if so, he should reflect on what made him successful in the 2000's instead of going with a pack of younger country singers. If he continues down this road, who knows how much louder the production will get.
Recommended tracks (in order): "Before We Knew They Were Good," "Whole Lot More Than That," and "Hard Way to Make an Easy Living."