Toby Keith - Honkytonk University
Audio CD (May 17, 2005)
Original Release Date: May 17, 2005
Label: Dreamworks Nashville
Bitrate: 320 kbps
Though it might not be fair to say that Toby Keith has mellowed, he has definitely matured. Rather than taking political potshots, he exchanges bully-boy bluster for a tone of wry bemusement on "Big Blue Note" and "She Left Me," tempering middle-aged pride with a confession that the years have taken their toll on "As Good as I Once Was." After flexing his muscles with the album-opening title track, which sets Keith's musical autobiography to the trademark lope of Waylon Jennings, he showcases the subtler side of his vocal artistry on "She Ain't Hooked on Me No More"--a duet with Merle Haggard--and "Knock Yourself Out," while turning almost tender on "Your Smile" and "Where You Gonna Go." For those who miss the old Toby, there's "Just the Guy to Do It," which proceeds from one of the cheesiest pickup lines ever ( "Do blondes really have more fun/Or are they just easier to spot in the dark?" ) into promises to punch out an errant boyfriend. Yet even this song has more of a Caribbean lilt than the macho swagger of Keith's younger days. ~ Don McLeese
This is the album I've been waiting for: Toby Keith returning to his traditional country roots. The traditional sound this album takes may be a surprise to fans who've just recently jumped aboard the Toby Keith bandwagon (and those who've been criticizing Keith these past few albums), but long-time fans will rejoice.
The songwriting on this album is, as always, up to par. In fact, these are some of Keith's best songs to date (most co-written with collaborater--and stellar singer/guitarist--Scotty Emerick). It's hard not to get lost in the Waylon-esque rhythms of "Honkytonk U." And you can't help but grin as Keith sings of giving in to his pride on "As Good As I Once Was" (Keith, too, has a big grin on his face as he sings these lines). "I Got It Bad" hails back to the days of Keith's best ballads. And "You Caught Me At A Bad Time" is one of the deepest, most moving songs he's ever written.
Okay, if I haven't gotten the point across yet, here it is: this is, by far, Toby Keith's best album to date. A lot of people say that; in fact, they say it about every album an artist releases. I don't. When I say this is the best album Toby Keith has made, trust me folks, it's the BEST ALBUM TOBY KEITH HAS MADE! This is traditional country music with grit--humor, heartbreak, drinking, love gone bad, hope, and twang. Lots of twang, steel, and lyrics that will strike straight to your soul...plus a duet with the Hag himself. HONKYTONK UNIVERSITY is one of the best albums that's come out lately, and it's a personal highlite for Toby Keith. Grab it...if you aren't already a Toby Keith fan, this one'll convert you, I guarantee it. ~ DanD
While Toby Keith's recent cds have been his most successful sales-wise, in truth, many of the singles from his last couple of albums were starting to sound the same. Thankfully, Honkytonk University offers a return to the well constructed, melodic material that Keith was known for during his Mercury days and his first two DreamWorks albums (How Do You Like Me Now, Pull My Chain).
The leadoff single "Honkytonk U" is an autobiographical look at Keith's life in music placed in a southern rock setting, then Keith's attitude shines through on "As Good As I Once Was." Later, Keith's sarcastic wit makes a welcome appearance on the swing flavored "You Ain't Leavin' ( Thank God Are Ya ) ." There's also more ballads found here than we have seen in awhile on a Keith release, with the sparse "You Caught Me At A Bad Time" and "Your Smile" both making a strong, poignant impression. Best of all is the harmonic heaven that Keith and Haggard create on "She Ain't Hooked On Me No More," an even more effective pairing than Keith's prior chart-topper with Willie Nelson.
Whether you've been a Toby Keith fan from the early "Shoulda Been A Cowboy" days, jumped on board on when his career moved into the stratosphere with "How Do You Like Me Now," and/or recently felt a bit disappointed by the lack of spark in his recent hits, you will find this album quite pleasing. It will probably garner some new converts as well. ~ James E. Bagley
Paul Franklin - steel guitar
Glenn Worf - bass instrument
Steve Nathan - piano, Hammond b-3 organ, keyboards
Brent Rowan - electric guitar
B. James Lowry
Biff Watson - acoustic guitar
Wes Hightower - background vocals
Toby Keith - Honkytonk University Tracks
01 Honkytonk U
02 As Good as I Once Was
03 She Ain't Hooked on Me No More - (with Merle Haggard)
04 Big Blue Note
05 Just the Guy to Do It
06 She Left Me
07 Knock Yourself Out
08 You Ain't Leavin' (Thank God Are Ya)
09 I Got It Bad
10 Your Smile
11 Where You Gonna Go
12 You Caught Me at a Bad Time