I don’t know what’s happened to Toby Keith. Only a few years ago, it was rare to see a Toby Keith song not go the distance. But ever since switching to his own label, his fortunes have turned for the worse. And I’m at a total loss as to why, because he’s toned down some of the swagger and most of the jingoism; pairing up with Bobby Pinson has found him turning out some of the best songs of his career. Bullets in the Gun shows a more troubling pattern, as he’s 0 for 2 so far. I honestly have no idea if “Somewhere Else” will reverse the downward spiral, but it’s sure worth a shot.
The production is a little looser and funkier than Keith’s familiar with, a pleasant shuffle and a laid-back but still bracing vocal. It’s a very different sound for him, but he pulls it off in spades. It pleasantly contrasts with the more downbeat lyrics of a fairly standard broken-heart song, hung on a rather intriguing hook: “if you don’t know where you’re goin’, you might end up somewhere else.” It’s an interesting little spin on “I’m lost without you” type songs.
I don’t know why Toby Keith has struggled so much with this album, as it’s produced two very interesting and different songs for him already: “Trailerhood” was wonderfully low-key and amusing, while “Bullets in the Gun” had a freewheeling, epic sound that he’d never really tried before. And yet both petered out way too soon. “Somewhere Else” could revese the trend, or it could even be his first single in seven years not to make the top 20. Either way, Toby Keith isn’t a man to stand still, so should this fail to take off, I’m sure he’ll call a mulligan and put out something else that’ll be just as good.
Listen: “Somewhere Else“
Review: “Bullets In The Gun“
Lyrics: “Somewhere Else“