[Sidebar] The Worcester Phoenix
December 17 - 24, 1999

[Music Reviews]

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** Toby Keith



Back in 1987 Kool Moe Dee, already a rap legend for his seminal work with the Treacherous 3, released the thunderous How Ya Like Me Now. Fueled by his long-running rivalry with L.L. Cool J, it was full of braggadocio and crackled with energy, and it had the musical muscle to back the boasts.

Toby Keith's title song has many of those same goals, though its story has an audience of one: a home-town girl who wouldn't date a guitar player but instead married a rich man and now wakes up, alone, to the guitar player's song on the clock radio. Having fallen slightly from commercial grace, Keith has reason to flex his muscles (notwithstanding his past as an oil worker and USFL football player). Alas, it's all for show. He has a voice that's easy to listen to, and he's had a hand in writing most of the songs he sings. But there's no edge to his performance, no hunger to be heard -- and no amount of rock flourishes will cover for that. Like most Nashville production today, this release is careful and sanitized. That gal back home can roll over and go back to sleep when Keith oughta be making her get up and cry.

-- Grant Alden
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