Ten-gallon hats off to Toby Keith. As the number-one ticket in America, the oil-riggin' good ol' boy-cum-new country badass has actualized the great American dream. He was well on his way to solidifying himself as country's plain-talkin' top dog even before his less-than-sensitive "Angry American" response to 9/11 kicked up gobs of publicity. Don't think for a minute that this just plays to hayseeds in Peoria; folks adore Keith's redneck-with-a-cause shtick from sea to shining sea.
Not surprisingly, Shock'n Y'all (a near homonym to Dubya's "Shock and Awe" campaign) brims with Middle American chest-beating anthems. The record's juke-ready themes of bedding whiskey-drinking sweethearts, loving Jesus, and bombing the shit out of the Taliban are sure to dominate country charts for the next six months. Though it's a far cry from the clever pop country ditties of Garth Brooks, the record does not want for occasionally snarky punch lines ("The Critic") or beer-swigging choruses ("I Love This Bar"). But where Shock'n Y'all ultimately bombs is in Keith's utter lack of subtlety. Every track is populated by cartoonishly simple characters and two-dimensional sentiments, all painted with the broad strokes of Keith's thickheaded values.
Ultimately, it's not the Saturday night at the bar/Sunday morning at church routine that's so bothersome -- C&W and R&B have both beautifully toed that dichotomy for generations. It's that every one of Keith's statements is barbed with the judgmental edge of that dang Angry (Scary?) American. It's a pretty ugly picture.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.