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Album Review: “That Don’t Make Me A Bad Guy” by Toby Keith

October 30, 2008

That Don't Make Me a Bad Guy

4 Stars

Toby Keith has made a name for himself as a tough and rough redneck rebel famous for his party song, bar anthems and patriotic pride tunes. Take this way, keep the rebel and the man and you have Toby Keith’s latest project from his own record label, Show Dog Records. Instead of focusing on the subjects that have helped Toby retain his fame and fortune the easy way, such as bars and soldiers, Keith takes a new approach which results in a more edgy and even more powerful rendition of himself, a factor he also attempted to incorporate into his previous album “Big Dog Daddy” with great results.

This time around Toby instills more of a combination of his emotional side and his rebellious side for what can be considered a duel concept album of love for life and a woman. The first two singles mirror this duality perfectly. “She Never Cried In Front Of Me” serves as a heartfelt and very powerful balled from Toby as a man who realizes, after his ex cries at her wedding, that he never loved her enough to make her that happy. The second single, “God Love Her”, focuses on the rebel child as Toby narrates the song from a girls motorcycle riding boyfriend as he addresses the rebellious, yet faithful personality of the woman he loves that ends up changing him for the better.

The remained of the album runs through actually quite smoothly. In its entirety it offers a view of Toby listeners don’t get to see much these days.  In order to keep a consistency with his own character and the theme of the album, Toby had to cross tears with muscles to show off strength and weakness in every song without contradicting his rebel image as an artist. The best examples of this are “Lost You Anyway” and “Missing Me Some You”, which end up being probably two of the best balled Toby has ever had in his catalogue and reveal a stripped down a vulnerable character while preserving the rebel. This is increasingly impressive as it allows Toby to show that tough guys have feelings to and it actually humanizes him and his stereotypical biker boy, bar patron fans a little for the close minded.

Some of Toby’s better entertaining songs from his past few projects are also contained here. “That Don’t Make Me A Bad Guy” and “Time That It Would Take” both address the singers personality and identity and supports it unquestionably in the presence of an opposing or questioning individual, one being a generalized audience and the other being a prospective significant other. Instead of overpowering Toby with southern rock booms, these songs contain a softer feel while, once again, retaining Toby’s redneck persona that his devoted listeners have come to know him for.

Where this album really sines is when the two concepts, love and rebel, come together as one. The best example is the closing track, “I Got It For You Girl” which takes the rough sound of Toby’s voice that has helped him pen so many redneck hits and combines it with a longing for a woman which avoids to much emphasis on the emotion to make an excellent closer.

One can strongly argue whether Toby is in the height of his career now or if he’s trying to rekindle the fire he lost a few years ago. Whatever the case Toby is back to his prime and the Big Dog Daddy is better than ever. It’s nice to hear Toby sway from his traditional cliches of bar songs a patriotic anthems. He’s already established quite a few of those, he doesn’t need anymore right now. What he needed was a humanizing, character reference type of album that would show everyone who he is and what he can really do as an artist and a writer. That is this album. It’s smooth, its an easy listen, it keeps the listener hooked the entire time and it provides a few side of Toby that needed to be heard. In my personal opinion, one of his best works in a long time.

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