Album review: Toby Keith's 'Clancy’s Tavern'
The title track of Toby Keith’s latest celebrates a favorite watering hole and its denizens. Lyrically, it’s in the vein of his 2003 hit “I Love This Bar,” but the descriptive details and lilting waltz pulse make it thematically and musically more a country cousin of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man.”
Like the corner bar, this is familiar territory for Keith and his fans, and he doesn’t seem to give a whit about stepping out of his comfort zone. That makes this an eminently dependable outing that’s strong on solidly crafted, confidently delivered songs but nearly devoid of surprises or revelations about his artistry.
The first single, “Made in America,” revisits the brand of patriotism he inherited from his father and has long worn proudly on his red, white and blue sleeve, while “I Need to Hear a Country Song” is a self-reflexive salute to the power of music as salve for emotional wounds.
“Tryin’ to Fall in Love” brims with witty couplets and homespun philosophy, a bouncy workout that the Statler Brothers might have recorded four decades ago. “Chill-axin’” yearns for the chance to recharge emotional batteries. Things turn wonderfully loopy in “Red Solo Cup,” a love letter to the plastic beverage container.
The highlight of the four bonus live tracks on the deluxe edition is his enthusiastic take on “High Time (You Quit Your Lowdown Ways),” a song Waylon Jennings recorded in the mid-’70s with one of the great opening lines in all of country: “I’m sick and tired of wakin’ up sick and tired.”
Two and one-half stars (out of four)
— Randy Lewis