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Toby Keith

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Album Review

On the cover of his eponymous 1993 debut, Toby Keith doesn't quite look like the big, swaggering dog that became a superstar roughly seven years later — he's too thin, his shirt too crisp, his mullet too drastic, his smile too eager — but image isn't everything. Underneath that cover, it sure is possible to hear the roots of modern Toby Keith on this appealing debut. It is given a production that's a bit too big, clean, glossy and cavernous for Keith's good — it fits the outsized sound of early-'90s radio, but not his outsized talent — but beneath that sheen the songs are very strong. He wrote all but two here — the cheerfully swinging "Some Kinda Good Kinda Hold on Me" and the very good "A Little Less Talk and a Lot More Action," which winningly echoes the Georgia Satellites' "Keep Your Hands to Yourself," aren't his — and he's already showing considerable range as a writer, already revealing his wry sense of humor on "Close But No Guitar" and expertly playing of Western mythology on "Should've Been a Cowboy" which was his deserved breakthrough. But if that song, combined with his latter macho stance, suggests that he was always all outlaw, most of Toby Keith is surprisingly within poppier territory, as "Ain't No Thang," "He Ain't Worth Missing" and "Wish I Didn't Know Now" all bear influences from Ronnie Milsap. He'd later develop this influence, blending it to a rowdier stance that became his signature, but looking back on this debut it's clear that Keith was a writer and singer of considerable skill even at the outset of his career.

Biography

Born: 08 July 1961 in Clinton, OK

Genre: Country

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Toby Keith spent the '90s as a solid, workmanlike country star who met with considerable chart success, yet never quite broke free of the neo-traditionalist pack to become a household name like Garth Brooks or Alan Jackson. That all changed in 2002 when he recorded "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)," a response to September 11 that became one of country's most highly charged political statements since Merle Haggard's "Okie from Muskogee." The media furor ensured that even...
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Toby Keith, Toby Keith
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