DIARY - 2 JULY 2013 TOBY KEITH CD REVIEW
Hope On The Rocks (Show Dog-Universal)
HOPE NOT ON ROCKS FOR TOBY
wife filed for divorce/ and Charlie bought a quarter horse and now he's
ridin' fences/ upside down and couldn't pay/ they hauled Sue's mobile
home away/ and we ain't seen her since/ Larry's long time fiancé
got kicked out of the P.T.A./ and moved her kids back east with someone
else/ and the ones you used to know don't drop in or say hello."
- Hope On The Rocks - Toby Keith.
blue collar bandit Toby Keith may have logged into a psychic saddle-tramp
when he chose Hope On The Rocks as the title track of his 18th
album late last year.
The desolation row characters who two-stepped over from Bob Dylan's urban
ghettoes to rural trailer parks were delivered a double whammy by the
May tornadoes that decimated Keith's hometown Moore - just south of Oklahoma
Keith's sister lost her home but his mother survived with a little help
from the twister Gods who blew around her digs where he grew up.
Toby enlisted a vast cast - Shotgun Willie Nelson, Ronnie Dunn, Mel Tillis,
John Anderson, Garth Brooks and singing spouse Trisha Yearwood and Van
Halen refugee Sammy Hagar to play the second music benefit on Saturday
July 6 at University of Oklahoma's Gaylord Family Memorial Stadium in
Voice judge and mentor Blake Shelton's Healing in the Heartland benefit
concert raised more than $6 million for victims of the deadly tornado
that killed 24 people including seven children.
Shelton headlined the televised concert that included performances by
wife Miranda Lambert, fellow Oklahoma born stars Vince Gill and Reba McEntire,
Rascal Flatts, Usher, Darius Rucker and Luke Bryan.
So what about the characters who populate Keith songs and videos such
as Trailerhood with a frequency sharper than a spur on a bucolic
banker's hind quarters in a foreclosure fist fight?
"When I got out of school and got a job in the oilfield with my dad,
I had a house," Toby, 51 and father of three including singing daughter
Krystal, revealed about the title track.
"And a couple of doors down was a young couple. I remember two or
three times a year, we'd hook up, do a barbecue or we'd play cards or
poker. And they got a divorce, and she instantly hooked up with another
guy and took off. You'd see her around, and he kind of vanished. The house
went empty then I moved away. And last year sometime, or two years ago,
somebody asked if me I knew some guy who used to live next to me, and
they gave me his name. And I was like, 'man, I remember that name. Whatever
happened to that guy?' Well, he got a divorce and kind of disappeared.
And I was like 'Whoa, I never thought of him anymore. There are people
in your life you see at the diner, or you see at the Starbucks, then something
happens, and you just don't see them. They don't give you two weeks' notice
and you forget about them. And it's like, "Where'd they go?"
And unless you're really close to them, you just forget about them. I
started thinking of that, and how my dad would go to the café every
morning in town. He had his buddies he sat with and then just one day,
they end up not showing up. You might ask what happened to them, but it's
not really a big loss to you, because it was just trivial chatter: football
games, I like your new truck, how's it going?"
And that video?
"We're trying to make it as moody as possible. As dark and deep as
possible. And all the characters are here," Keith explained.
"Usually, when we do videos, we try to leave it a little open-ended
so when you first heard the song, whatever your first blush of the rose
was, can still exist somewhat. We're trying to be more to-the-letter on
this and recreate what exactly we're trying to say in the song. Well,
this bartender is like, "I'll tell you where they go. They come right
here. I'm the mentor, the father, the brother, the friend." That's
what this song is about. There are eight or 10 characters, and this bartender
is talking about how he babysits them. These are really the lost souls
of the world. I guess it's the only place they can go, right?"
- BEER SHOWERS
cold beer country, 110 in the shade/ an iced tea won't cut it and neither
will lemonade/ I need a cold Budweiser on a bar stool and a jukebox by
my dear/ singing cold beer country cos it's cold beer country round here."
- Cold Beer Country - Toby Keith-Bobby Pinson-Marc Fortney.
landed on the cover of the July issue of Forbes Magazine after
he earned $65 million in the last year - far more than celebrity moguls
like Jay-Z, Beyonce and Jennifer Lopez.
The singer-songwriter has written a No. 1 hit every year for the last
20 years and also owns a piece of the enormous success of Taylor Swift,
through his Show Dog label's partnership with her label, Big Machine.
He also has his own Wild Shot mezcal line, a chain of I Love This
Bar & Grill restaurants, a multi-million-dollar endorsement deal
with Ford, merchandising, concerts and is a prominent horse breeder.
Forbes estimates Keith's total career earnings at $500 million - his
indie label Show Dog features Louisiana kindred spirit Trace Adkins
as his major client.
He wrote all 10 tracks on the Hope On The Rocks standard edition.
"Writing is not work. In fact, there's nothing better,"
is something that if the music business went completely away tomorrow
- radio stations quit existing and music quit being popular and it was
old hat - I would still write songs. It doesn't matter. When you've got
an extra gear in your head where that's all you do, you've constantly
got a little radar up. And when something hits that strikes that beeper,
hits that radar, it's like my song skills kick right in and go, 'Oh, OK,
there's a song in that.' And then I start trying to figure it out."
Inspiration can come from anywhere - he uses his smart phone voice recorder
to make notes about potential lyrics and hums grooves he uses.
Toby has a penchant for booze ditties that appeal to his captive audiences
well beyond his I Love This Bar & Grill restaurant chain.
"Neighbourhood bars, not meat market bars but good friendly neighbourhood
bars, have a lot in common with church because their friends are sociable,"
"If somebody's down, they raise funds and take care of their own.
They help each other.
It's a good, solid, social atmosphere. They're self-resourceful through
benefits and fundraisers and helping each other move, helping somebody
mow their lawn. You're a plumber, so can you come over and help me fix
my sink. And they network with each other and barter out stuff, and it
can be a really good spot for somebody who's down."
Hope on the Rocks pays homage to those influential in his life.
"Growing up in bars and having a grandmother who owned one when I
was a kid and having played bars my whole life, I know how good neighbourhood
bars can be," he adds.
"The bartender is also a baby-sitter, brother, father, mentor, guru,
suicide hotline, everything!"
I Like Girls That Drink Beer is dedicated to a friend's wife who
orders Coronas instead of cocktails at his country club.
Haven't Had A Drink All Day is unique - a fast paced, high energy
Keith has no trouble marketing his alcohol anthems.
"We've got ten or 11 of the biggest bar and grills in the country,"
Keith says of his empire.
"We've got the number one liquor in the nation in our category, which
is mezcal. Everything we've tried to do has outworked the other guy. If
I don't get television over here, I'll get a Ford deal, and I've been
ten years with Ford now. If I can't get on award shows and be one of those
chosen few, then I'll go over here and be in the movies or do some television
shows. I know what we've accomplished back here behind the curtain. There's
not that many balls in the air, but the ones there are important and they
are big. You have to focus and take it to this extreme level."
you on your weekend whiskey/ getting crazy at the bar/ I missed you running
late on Sundays / sliding in as the preacher starts / I missed you at
my sister's wedding/ I'd be lying if I said you didn't cross my mind /
I've found the love of my life/ I think I missed you just right."
- Missed You Just Right - Toby Keith-Bobby Pinson.
Toby is no
one truck pony - like Texan troubadour Billy Joe Shaver it was a matronly
teacher who first noticed his writing talent.
When Toby attended Southgate Elementary in Moore, his sixth-grade teacher
made a controversial declaration to his parents.
Their son was a natural-born writer.
"She said the boys usually do about half a page and they hunt a bear
and they shoot the bear and they make a rug out of it and then they survive
a winter somewhere," Keith recalled.
it's a half a page and they're done and they go and play quietly in the
back of the room. The girls do romance stuff and getting married on white
horses. She goes, he is the only one left of the boys that's still writing
when the girls quit and his creative writing is amazing. And my dad was
so frustrated with her trying to convince them to make me a writer. He
was like 'my boy ain't gonna be no damn writer; you know, give him his
reading, writing and arithmetic and let's go.' I remember going home in
the car he was just like, 'There ain't no way. There ain't no way he's
gonna make a nickel as a writer. He's gonna get out like I did in the
oilfield and he's gonna work like a guy's supposed to work. I'm not upset
with my parents. You can't tell in the sixth grade that you're supposed
to tell your kid, 'Go and be a creative writer.' But it reared its ugly
head when I turned 15. My grandmother had the bar, I had a guitar, I was
around people that were playing in garage bands. And the two went hand
in hand. And all the sudden you look up, and you're one of the most successful
ever in your genre. Or in any genre."
he owes much to his grandmother and father.
"My dad was born on a broom corn farm in Lindsey, Oklahoma,"
raised broom corn, that's what they made brooms out of. And my dad
went to the military as quick as he could, because he wanted out
to have a better way of life. The way he chose cost him his right
Because of that one eye, when he came back out of the service, he
was limited to what he could do. He worked in the oil fields for
35 years, and become a regional manager for the mid-USA. He didn't
go the old college route, he blue-collared and boot-strapped it
up and I saw us evolve from living in an old rent house and him
and mom working to climbing the ladder and becoming successful.
I think that's ingrained in me."
of sayings from his father inspired The Size I Wear and colourful
story-song Scat Cat.
somebody would sneeze, instead of saying 'God bless,' he'd say 'scat cat,
you got gravy on your tail," Keith recalled. "But I just incorporated
it to paint a picture: way out in the sticks, last of the moonshiners
and it made it a nice tie for it. What it means or what it stands for,
I don't know."
And he proved his debt to his grandmother by naming his 15th album Clancy's
"She got the name Clancy from my grandfather," Keith recalled.
"She married right before I was born, and he named her Clancy because
she ran the tavern.
Her first husband died leaving her with three kids, all under the age
of four. Her parents lived on Cactus Ridge in Booneville, Arkansas and
they raised my mom and her two brothers while she moved to Fort Smith
to be the plant manager at the Dixie Cup factory there. That was in the
1940s and early 1950s. She was the first woman plant manager there. She
worked at this nightclub, Billy Garner's Supper Club, in the evenings,
taking the cover charge from the folks who came in. When she had the opportunity
to buy the place, she did. I would go stay with her and that was where
I was bitten by the entertainment bug. The characters in the song are
real. There was a black dude named Elmo who cooked in the kitchen, and
her best friend, Lillie, took over her job of taking the cover charge.
She was also a widow woman. It was closer to church than a bar because
it was self-policed; there were no bouncers, and you would see the same
faces in there every night. The song is true, down to her taking her pistol
and money to the bank."
coffee on the stove/ and on the table in the kitchen/ there's a busted
hand of midnight solitaire/ there's a ghost in the bedroom/ a nightgown
on the dresser/ a broken heart that wishes you were there." - You
Ain't Alone - Toby Keith-Scotty Emerick.
finish the album, including Haven't Seen the Last of You - built
around a rolling chorus featuring Show Dog-Universal artist Mica Roberts
on the chorus.
Missed You Just Right, penned with Scotty Emerick, mines heartbreak
and moving on, somewhat similar to fellow Oklahoma star Garth Brooks song
A fitting finale is melancholic rootsy western ballad You Ain't Alone
that has a raw sense of loneliness.
The deluxe version of Hope on the Rocks includes remixes of Red
Solo Cup and Beers Ago and live versions of Whiskey Girl
and ockerish Get Out of My Car.
Keith says some of his biggest hits have been quickies.
"Should've Been a Cowboy" fell out in 20 minutes,"
Keith said of his embryonic hit.
"Courtesy of the Red White and Blue fell out in 20 minutes.
Sometimes a song comes out, and you just want to grind away at it. I started
grinding away on it and grinding away, and it took me three or four months
to write it because I only had little bitty windows to talk about a lot
of people. I wanted to be definitive and really tell you about who I'm
talking about here so you would know how much desperation they're going
through. And it took a while to get it. They're both satisfying. It's
just some are laid out in front of you, and you put them together. It
was such a big hook. I mean, when I hooked into the fish, I had him circle
the boat, but I wasn't going to just pull him in and call it good. I wanted
to make sure that I didn't leave any holes in the song. And I've told
people since I wrote it, I said, "if I were sitting in the Bluebird
Café writers round and there were five heavy-hitter songwriters
there and they said, 'Tonight these five guys are going to play what they
think is the best three songs they wrote in their career,' I would sing
this song as one of my three. Because you've got more invested in it,
does that make you a little more nervous about seeing what the reaction
Keith says another of his favourite songs withered on the vine - one of
the trifecta he would sing at the Bluebird.
"The other two I'd probably play weren't even singles," Keith
"At least this one's getting a chance to be heard. Nights I Can't
Remember, Friends I'll Never Forget is a great song, and it never got
to be a single. So I know at least this one's going to get a chance to
be heard. I've had enough people listen to it and got the reaction and
feedback that it wows a lot of people."
Keith is so content with his writing and recording cycle he turned down
one of the most coveted gigs in the entertainment business: American Idol
Yes, Keith Urban took it.
"It was very intriguing for me to sit here and go 'OK, one of the
biggest television shows in the history of television is wanting you to
pay a ton of money - a ton of money." Keith says.
"And 10 years ago, I'd probably took two or three days to think about
it or a week and then probably done it. But at it's like at this point
in your life, you're like, you know, I suffer so much creatively when
I take on those big projects that the money's never worth it. You know,
it doesn't matter at the end of the day because I haven't needed money
in a long time," he said.
"In about five seconds, it was like 'I need to say no right now before
I change my mind.'
Because I know two or three weeks into that grind I'd be going, 'I cannot
believe that I'm stuck here working like this for money.' 'Cause my heart
wouldn't be in it. So I politely declined and was very happy with my decision."
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