Over the course of the past few years Toby Keith has completely taken the reins of his career into his own hands. While his stubbornness is sometimes 'justified,' it has also rubbed a lot of people the wrong way over the years. Still, wanting complete control of his career has proven to be lucrative for Toby and "That Don't Make Me A Bad Guy" is his fourth album to be released under his Show Dog Records Nashville label. And what an interesting album it is. The title track, a winking reference to the stuff mentioned above, is a fun honky-tonk shuffle that recalls the songs that shaped Toby into the star he is today. It's refreshing to hear a song like this from him. The lyrics talk about a guy who likes to enjoy life and even if he's 'easy to love and hard to keep' he says that he's still a softie at heart.
"God Love Her," the second single from this record, is a slice of generic heartland rock that has a hook that is immediate but in the end the song does leave a little to be desired, even if the melody manages to hook you and catch the ear. "Lost You Anyway" is another track that recalls some classic Toby tracks as he croons about the truth in the matter of his relationship with his ex, he could've done a lot more but she'd still have left him. Keith croons the lyric with the vocal timbre that is one of his most unique qualities. For as much flack as Toby's received in the past for the 'boot in your ass' song in the past, Toby's shown a lot more passion for the soldiers who protect our freedoms. "Missing Me Some You" is a well-written slice of blues that is truly heartfelt and I'm sure a lot of married soldiers have felt everything in the song while away on duty.
The connection to older tracks continues with "You Already Love Me," which has a similar theme to some other tracks on the album but it's a lyric that is real and not forced. When he sings "I know that you could do better than me" he really means it (for the record he's singing about his heard-headedness). The melody is country to the core with plenty of steel guitar, banjos and mandolins heavily in the mix with the drums and guitars. The first single, "She Never Cried In Front" is the 17th Number One single of Toby's career. It's a well-written song (Toby co-wrote it with Bobby Pinson). It's a contemporary country power ballad but never does it sound forced. "Cabo San Lucas" is about a guy who's living the life in Mexico and if there's a familiar vibe to the song it's because Toby co-wrote it with Eddy Raven, a man who's no stranger to songs like this ("I Got Mexico").
While Toby was beginning to lose me over the course of his past few albums, He's reeled me back onto his side with "That Don't Make Me A Bad Guy." It's the kind of record I've long expected him to make and while it's far from perfect, it is exactly the kind of album that will appeal to fans old and new.