There isn't a weak track on Toby Keith's 'Bullets in the Gun'

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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Toby Keith

Bullets in the Gun

Toby Keith can be predictably boorish, but he can also surprise you, as his regrettably titled new album, "Bullets in the Gun," amply attests. There isn't a weak track on the record, and most of the songs, more than half of them written with the redoubtable Bobby Pinson, are pretty terrific.

Then again, even second-rate material would sound great when played by a band that includes the likes of Kenny Greenberg (guitar), Michael Rhodes (bass), Paul Franklin (steel guitar) and Phil Madeira (accordion and organ). Rhodes's full-bodied bass leads the way, notably on the boogieing "Drive It On Home" and the rumbling title track. The latter gets a lift from imaginative banjo and harmonica fills and keening guitarist atmospherics.

Just as welcome is the way Keith tempers his trademark bluster with self-awareness and self-deprecation. "This ain't the first time to be my own worst enemy," he sings to the meat-and-potatoes country-rock of "Ain't Breakin' Nothin'," one of six songs on the record in which the woman in Keith's life dumps him. "In a Couple of Days," a heartbreak ballad sweetened by vibes and accordion, shows off the more melodic side of his otherwise boisterous baritone.

Even "Trailorhood," a sendup of the plastic pools and lawn-chair life of the "fools" he once knew in a Texas trailer park, is redeemed by Keith's self-skewering sense of humor. "It takes one to know one," he chuckles, and with just enough conviction to tell us he means it.

-- Bill Friskics-Warren

Recommended tracks:

"Ain't Breakin' Nothin'," "In a Couple of Days,"

"Bullets in the Gun"

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