Toby Keith, ‘Hope on the Rocks’ – Album Review
Toby Keith‘s new album ‘Hope on the Rocks’ is a loud and sudsy collection of songs about beer, barrooms, heartbreak… and beer. Much like a Saturday night out at your favorite watering hole, it’s rowdy and fun, but difficult to remember the next morning.
Very little about this new effort from Toby Keith stings like a shot of good whiskey or lingers like a first kiss. Keith enjoyed heightened attention with the release of his last album — the artistic and complete ‘Clancy’s Tavern’ — and the success of ‘Red Solo Cup.’ ‘Hope on the Rocks’ feels rushed, almost tossed together without properly vetting ideas like ‘Scat Cat.’
‘Scat Cat,’ the third song on the album, is about a young hellraiser who realizes his time for making trouble will end, likely soon. Sonically, Keith tries on a new vocal style, and rides a thick, bluesy guitar riff. This is exciting… until the chorus.
“If bullet doesn’t find me / They’ll let me rot in jail / Scat cat you got gravy on your tail,” he sings. The singer admits he doesn’t really know what that means (it was something his dad used to say), but he also doesn’t recognize the disgusted looks many who hear the song will wear on their faces. If there was ever a lyric that made one want to crack a window, it’s “Scat cat, you got gravy on your tail.”
Lyrically, there are some highlights. ‘Hope on the Rocks,’ a song about a town full of battered and almost broken spirits looking to recover at a neighborhood bar, shines on the album. The story is told from the bartender’s perspective. ”Then it rained so hard that Mary tried / To take her life with suicide / And disappeared just like the thunder,” Keith sings. The ballad is reserved and poignant — two things that aren’t repeated until late on the album.
The center of the album revolves around beer. Songs like the macho ‘The Size I Wear’ (which takes place in a bar), ‘I Like Girls That Drink Beer’ and ‘Haven’t Had a Drink All Day’ might be more effective spread cross a few albums, instead of clumped together with ‘Cold Beer Country’ on ‘Hope on the Rocks.’ Three ballads help finish the standard album, including ‘Haven’t Seen the Last of You,’ a song that will send one to Google to find out who the angel helping Keith out with the chorus is (it’s Show Dog-Universal artist Mica Roberts).
‘Missed You Just Right’ is more effective after a few listens than it is immediately following ‘Cold Beer Country.’ This song is an original, although it’s comparable to ‘Unanswered Prayers’ by Garth Brooks.
The deluxe edition of ‘Hope on the Rocks’ includes remixes of ‘Red Solo Cup’ and ‘Beers Ago,’ as well as live versions of ‘Whiskey Girl’ and ‘Get Out of My Car.’ These four will appeal to those who are going to love the first 10 songs, but not his fans who appreciate a multidimensional approach. The good news is that Keith has released a new album each of the last five Octobers, so something better can be expected in 2013.