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Album review: Toby Keith, "Bullets in the Gun"

Toby Keith's "Bullets in the Gun" runs short on surprises, good or bad . (Kyle Gustafson/FTPW)

By Bill Friskics-Warren

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 send-up 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.

Recommended tracks:
“Ain’t Breakin’ Nothin’,” “In a Couple of Days,”
“Bullets in the Gun”

By The Reliable Source  | October 5, 2010; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Album reviews  | Tags:  Toby Keith  
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