Monday, November 5th. 2001 Volume 67, Issue 53



Like home state, Keith's latest is OK

By Ed De La Garza
Daily Cougar Staff

One couldn't fault Toby Keith for producing a less-than-inspiring follow up to 1999's How Do You Like Me Now!?.

That album included a title track that became an instantly recognizable runaway hit and garnered the Oklahoma native
American Country Music Male Vocalist and Album of the Year awards. That success may have led to Keith's current
gig promoting a long-distance service alongside Terry Bradshaw and Mike Piazza.

It's a lot to live up to, especially for one of the few country artists who dares to write his own songs. Keith lives up
to the hype with Pull My Chain, a collection that mixes his usual humor with honky-tonk, straight country and pop

Though it opens the album and is its first single, "I'm Just Talkin' About Tonight" is not Chain's best track. Its lyrics
talk about moving beyond the perfunctory "getting to know you" banter at clubs. By country standards it's an original
idea, but the music isn't. Finding the better material takes a bit of digging.

"I Wanna Talk About Me" gets your attention with a nice little bass groove that leads into -- of all things -- a
spoken-word verse. It's been called country's answer to rap, but it has the same type of feel as Keith's earlier
"Getcha Some." Keith's never been one to drone on about heartache. On this song, a tough-talking, straight-laced
cowboy's had enough of his woman's talk and wants to get a word in edgewise. He's not exactly "Mr. Sensitive."

But considering that tough exterior, it comes as a surprise that some of the album's better moments are the ballads,
when Keith's effortless voice gives way to an earnest delivery. The fact that he's so nonchalant about relationships
gives his softer side more meaning.

The sweeping "You Leave Me Weak," backed by an acoustic guitar and piano, shows the singer spent quite a bit of
time listening to 1980s pop ballads. "My List," about putting the truly important things in life in their proper place,
features some solid writing.

"Tryin' to Matter" and "You Didn't Have as Much to Lose" showcase Keith's strength as a singer. He doesn't have to
relate to his partner's feelings. He just has to relate to his own experience. It's subdued, but it's sincere.

The ballads may be good, but it wouldn't be Toby Keith without the rock infusion.

The funk-laced title track is standard honky-tonk fare, but it works. Keith assumes the persona of a tired old dog:
"Used to be a hound dog, chased a lot of fast cars/ Now I don't even bark when the kitty cats stroll through the
back yard."

"Gimme 8 Seconds," co-written with Bernie Taupin, is pure rock. It may close the album, but it captures Keith's spirit.
Expect to hear this one live if he's one of the artists at next year's RodeoHouston.

Keith succeeds on many fronts. He's assembled a good collection of material that bucks Nashville's current
pop-country trend, and he makes no apologies for it. He's a modern Hank Williams Jr., minus the self-destructive

If Pull My Chain suffers, it's because of poor sequencing. Some of the album's better songs are buried in its second
half. But judging from Keith's attitude, sequencing may not mean a whole lot to a country rebel.

Toby Keith

Pull My Chain

*** 1/2 (out of five stars)

Dreamworks Records

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