Toby Keith

Hope on the Rocks

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Maybe it's just the times but Toby Keith has had drinking on his mind, calling his 2011 album Clancy's Tavern, which rode up the charts on the back of the boozy hit "Red Solo Cup" and now, for its sequel, Keith serves up Hope on the Rocks, an album where he finds his way to "Cold Beer Country" and complains that he hasn't had a drink all day. He also admits that "I Like Girls Who Drink Beer," the confession coming as no great surprise and, truth be told, there are no great surprises throughout Hope on the Rocks. Keith has whittled the album down to his basics, finding space for only three love songs -- the heartbroken "Haven't Seen the Last of You," "Missed You Just Right," which has airs of an arena-country crossover, and the bittersweet "You Ain't Alone," all arriving in the back half of the album, helping to accentuate the album's party-ready atmosphere. But for as many jokes as he tells -- such as the sly rocker "The Size I Wear" bringing back memories of "Ain't as Good as I Once Was" -- what impresses is the sturdiness of his craft, so expertly honed that he can telegraph the punch line of "Haven't Had a Drink All Day" from a mile away and still make it funny. Similarly, he's musically adept, threading an anthemic chorus into his title track, working a thick blues grind on "Scat Cat," adding horns to "Get Got," and indulging in some old-fashioned swinging shuffle on "Cold Beer Country." Unlike White Trash with Money, there is no unifying sound or theme here: it's just a satisfying set of strong songs.

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