Toby Keith, "American Ride"

83 Billboard Rating

There's a little less bluster and bravado on Toby Keith's latest album, "American Ride," and it's a welcome turn. Keith has always understood how to connect with his loyal fans, and he may have sensed their need for a break from the in-your-face feel of his most recent albums. The track "Are You Feelin' Me" is a rare show of vulnerability from the Oklahoma native, while "Woke Up on My Own" finds the singer facing his own limitations. Dave Koz's saxophone is a perfect accompaniment to the tender and touching "Cryin' for Me (Wayman's Song)," a tribute to former NBA star/ jazz musician Wayman Tisdale, who died in May. The fiddle- and steel guitar-laden "You Can't Read My Mind" and the I'm-a-lug-but-you-love-me-anyway "Tender As I Wanna Be" are destined to be dancefloor favorites. But "American Ride" isn't completely chutzpah. The first single/title track is the only song on the set that Keith didn't have a hand in writing-it's a look at America and all its foibles. Meanwhile, the rocking and rousing tune "Loaded" celebrates the workingman's night on the town. -Ken Tucker

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