Toby Keith ‘Hope on the Rocks Deluxe Edition' (Show Dog-Universal Music)
Befitting his blue-collar outlook and upbringing, Oklahoma native Toby Keith's discography increasingly brings to mind a favored leather jacket: sturdy, reliable and well-crafted.
The stalwart country music superstar, 51, releases an album every autumn, and the 2012 edition, “Hope on the Rocks” slips comfortably into the leather jacket analogy.
It's nothing showy or trendy, just a collection of solid, well-written country songs.
The Norman resident's baritone drawl has aged like leather, getting richer and more appealing with age.
Per usual, the Clinton-born Keith wrote or co-wrote all 10 new songs — the deluxe edition adds two remixes and two live tracks — along with producing the album. He does open “Hope on the Rocks” with something completely different — a shiny new set of buttons on the old jacket, if you will — in the title track, a mature and melancholy story-song about a bartender encountering the hurt and displaced folks that drift in and out of our lives. It doesn't have quite the sonic punch of some of his most memorable hits, but the sad truth of it lingers.
Keith adds some flash with the bawdy honky-tonker “The Size I Wear,” the brawny blues-rocker “Scat Cat” and the horn-peppered old-timer's advice list “Get Got.”
The ballads — the heartbroken “Haven't Seen the Last of You,” the uplifting “Missed You Just Right” and mournful “You Ain't Alone” — are particularly soft and supple.
Maybe it was the success of his last album's infectious earworm “Red Solo Cup” — a remixed version of the ditty is included on the new album's deluxe version — but Keith seems to have beer on the brain this go-round.
He tunefully ties one on with “I Like Girls That Drink Beer,” “Cold Beer Country” and “Haven't Had a Drink All Day,” making “Hope on the Rocks” a particularly party-ready release.
Leather jacket optional.
— Brandy McDonnell