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Toby Keith

Unleashed – 2002 (DreamWorks Nashville)

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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CDs by Toby Keith

Riding higher than ever, Toby Keith comes out of the gate with with the tough sounding response to 9/11 "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)." Controversial though it may be, the song is not a cheap rant, but a heartfelt response to the tragedy by someone who felt we got kicked hard. Keith's voice probably has never sounded tougher either. In other words, it's well suited to the subject.

Curiously, the disc closes with a live introduction of the song by Keith. Why they didn't go together is unclear. He goes far softer on blues-inflected "Who's Your Daddy?" with some nice backing vocals and the mariachi inflected "Good to Go to Mexico."

Later, Keith goes tough again on the good-time sounding, but tough meaning "Beer for My Horses." The duet with Willie Nelson, which works quite well (Willie never seems to sound bad these days), argues against "too much corruption, too much crime in the streets/It's time the long arm of the law put a few more in the ground."Like almost every Keith album, there are definite strong points, but not quite enough to put it over the top. "Rodeo Moon," co-written with Chris LeDoux, proves that when he the tunes aren't middlin', Keith knows his way around a country tune. There just aren't enough of them. But songs like "Losing My Touch" and "Huckleberry" aren't particularly memorable even if Keith sings well.

There are more hits than misses, but this falls short of being a career album.