Joe Diffie’s Tougher Than Nails is one of the honky tonk singer’s most fully realized recent full-length albums. This 2004 album opens with its title track, which is an outspoken gospel song. (Something few genres other than country music can do). Jesus, who was nailed to a cross, is described in it as one who was tougher than nails. Throughout the rest of the album, Diffie sings great, and is also given many memorable songs to sing.
In contrast to the churchy “Tougher Than Nails,” though, there’s the barroom-ready “The More You Drink, The Better I Look,” which is an upbeat country thumper, nicely accented by Aubrey Haynie’s fiddle and some percussive honky tonk piano. Another fun one is “What Would Waylon Do,” which features George Jones singing, and Diffie doing his best Jones vocal impression. Lyrically, the song looks at life and asks how the late great Waylon Jennings would have reacted to various situations. It’s both fun and funny. It acts as a second chapter song, if you will, to Jennings’ “I Don’t Think Hank Done It This Way,” which analyzed mainstream country at the time through a Hank Williams lens.
Haynie’s fiddle also highlights “Movin’ Train,” which is the only one of twelve tracks Diffie wrote all by himself. It chugs along nicely, like a train, and finds Diffie singing in a mournfully bluegrass-y way. The album closes with “My Redneck Of The Woods,” which ends this satisfying musical ride with some swampy goodness.
If you’re exploring Joe Diffie’s catalogue – maybe for the first time -- you can’t go wrong starting with Tougher Than Nails.