Discounting its lumbering opener “Made in America” -- an ode to middle America disconcertingly scored to echoing guitar copped from the Edge -- Toby Keith plants his flag firmly in the country on Clancy’s Tavern. Modern man that he is, Keith’s definition of country is rooted in ‘70s outlaw, but not beholden to twangy Teles and slow-rolling acoustics -- he opens up enough to allow a Caribbean breeze to blow in when he’s taking a moment to “Chill-Ax,” he croons sweetly on “Just Another Sundown,” he even leans on a little melancholic Irish lilt on the title track, just one of many drinking songs on an album named after a bar. Keith measures his memories by beer and hoists a “Red Solo Cup” in a riotous party that goes a long way in explaining what’s right with Clancy’s Tavern. Following through on the lighter touch of the preceding Bullets in the Gun, Keith pushes humor to the forefront and generally isn’t so insistent on driving the beat into arena country territory, letting the melodies and music relax. Similarly, his delivery is unassumingly assured, sounding almost sly when he’s singing about his need to hear a country song and retaining some spooky mystery on “Club Zydeco Moon” (which strangely enough never flirts with Cajun music). Keith is no longer in the flashy phase of his career, and he’s toning down the bravado somewhat -- he’s now the guy he sang about being on “As Good as I Once Was” -- but he’s settled into this well-weathered skin on Clancy’s Tavern, winding up with his best album in many a moon.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine