Radio hits by country’s leading men have been criticized for relying on the usual tropes of trucks, pretty girls and six-packs. While Toby Keith certainly has drawn from these subjects during his 20-year career, his 18th studio LP, 35 mph Town, bypasses the cliches and tones down his sometimes overbearing bravado. There’s real depth on “What She Left Behind,” about an ex’s “bottle of perfume left for dead” on his bedside table. But Keith doesn’t sacrifice any bonhomie: “Rum Is the Reason,” a steel-drummed tale about why pirates never ruled the world, sounds like a good Jimmy Buffett song for a reason — the singer’s Coral Reefer Band provides backing. (Buffett himself appears on the wistful “Sailboat for Sale.”) “Good Gets Here” and “Ten Foot Pole” feature blaring horns, which bring an irrepressible bounce all too rare in recent country releases.
Listen to Toby Keith and other artists featured in this week’s Billboard below.
This article originally appeared in the Oct. 17 issue of Billboard.