Tom Petty's cutting comment about country music today is somewhat correct. Calling it “bad rock with a fiddle,” it's not too far from the truth.
Thanks to artists such as Florida Georgia Line and Luke Bryan (as good-looking as he is), bro-country is everywhere. You know it when you hear it: There's no musical direction, it often involves a horrible mashup of country rap and rock, and there's zero lyrical substance. It's these sounds that give country music the "nails on a chalkboard" reputation it has today. Then, there's Toby Keith.
Compared to the bro-country that chokes radio waves today, Keith is anything but. He strays from the repetitiveness of pickup trucks and chicks in denim. The differentiator between Keith and Florida Georgia Line – AKA the “Nickelback of country music” – is substance. Lyrics to Keith’s fun songs are full of tact and originality and are just plain catchy. He may not be the classic Willie Nelson or Johnny Cash that your parents love so much, but he's not going to be blasted obnoxiously at a frat party on repeat. Keith's music is a safe middle ground nestled between classic country and new country.
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Keith also has a more serious side. His single “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue” was released in May 2002 and is said to be inspired by his father’s death (a veteran) as well as by 9/11. The song is an ode to America and received a flood of positive emotion from audience members. How can you not get pumped about the USA with the lyric "'cause we'll put a boot in your ass/It's the American way”? Keith’s patriotism does not stop there: Other singles include “American Soldier,” “Made in America,” and “American Ride.”
The antithesis of the bro-country music, Keith’s music is intelligent, patriotic, and, most of all, a hell of a good time. He doesn't make the type of songs that will leave you with a terrible hangover from cheap Fireball and white-trash debauchery. That’s not to say the man doesn’t put out fun songs. He was the one who crooned the silly “Red Solo Cup” as well as “Get Drunk and Be Somebody.”
The difference is that Keith is somebody worth listening to.
Toby Keith, Colt Ford, and Chris Janson, 7 p.m. Sunday, August 2, at Perfect Vodka Amphitheatre (formerly Coral Sky). 601-7 Sansbury's Way, West Palm Beach. Call 561-795-8883, or visit them online.