I inherited my love for Toby Keith from my mother, along with a pair of boots signed by him at
the Harris County Fair circa 1996. The only thing we ever listened to in the kitchen was his “Boomtown” album. Artists like Toby, Tim, and Kenny were pretty much the extent of my country music awareness until I turned 10, and I don’t have any complaints about it at all.
I knew for sure I would be a “Whiskey Girl” when I was in the 3rd grade; I was wrong… so, so wrong- whiskey does NOT make me frisky, whiskey makes me sob uncontrollably. That being said, Toby Keith is known for rambunctious, “Get Drunk and Be Somebody”-esque songs. He gets a bad rap for being some kind of ignorant wash-up who killed country music, but I think that’s pretty unbased as far as his music is concerned. He’s had his controversies, but he HAS great music. “I Love This Bar” as much as the next girl, and I wanted to share a few of my favorite songs both performed AND written by Keith that don’t really embody what most country fans would consider a typical TK song.
“Woman Behind the Man” is from his Boomtown album, and it’s a far more compelling love song than “Whiskey Girl” could even come close to. The song displays a capacity for love that an everyday country music fan wouldn’t begin to imagine possible of Toby. Similar in theme to “Stand Beside Me” by Jo Dee Messina, it’s a great example of women being viewed as equals and a healthy relationship, not based on tattoos or blue jeans.
“Every Night” is another example of Toby engaging with a more sensitive side, understanding the heartache and pain that a woman he is interested in is dealing with. It’s far from a boot stomping, beer drinking, all-american honky-tonk jive.
I love “Yesterday’s Rain” because even though the lyrics themselves are unabashedly miserable, it still manages to be a catchy song with a lively instrumental. It’s pretty typical country (albeit corporate) but it still stands out from the general Toby impression.
This is probably the most popular of the songs listed, and most people wouldn’t list ‘stoner’ as one of Toby Keith’s characteristics, it would fall farrrr below drunk and obnoxious; this song goes to prove just that. However, the song does mention his “great contact high” and he gives in and smokes again at the end of the song, so I like to think he came around at least a little bit. Also it’s just a fun TK song that I think is at least a little bit different from his typical rowdy redneck bad rap.
Hopefully after listening to these songs (and checking out his albums to find more on your own), you too will admit that his work has many dimensions, and I also hope to swing some fans in his favor- he’s a fun guy! I’m not saying he’s the next Albert Einstein, but his music doesn’t constantly cycle between tramp stamps, trucks, and red solo cups.