Music Review: Toby Keith’s ‘Hope on the Rocks’

Toby Keith's 'Hope on the Rocks' Album CoverThere’s a lot to like on this album. Toby mixes up the range of songs between humor and serious very well. And Toby is such a talent in both those elements. He’s a singer with the rare ability to sing a song about heartache, longing and love and make you feel like you’ve been punched in the gut as well as singing songs about beer, getting older and competing for a girl that will give you belly laughs.

The title track ‘Hope on the Rocks’ exemplifies why I think that Toby Keith is a great artist. Keith has a tremendous voice when it is paired with the right song as it is with ‘Rocks.’ The deepness of his voice is rich but not thick. His drawl is just soft enough to know that its there without making you think about it.

‘Rocks’ tells the story of those folks who belly-up to drown their sorrows from the point of view of the bartender, who finds them there one day and gone the next:

You ask around and no one knows/
Where they went or what they do/
But you wonder/
I know you wonder

Where do they go/
They come here/
To drown in the their sorrow and cry in their beer/
They’re in need of a mindbender/
I’m a bartender/
And at the end of the day/
I’m all they got/
Hope on the rocks

The lyrics are just incredible and I wouldn’t be able to do justice to them by writing. You have to listen. The song is as haunting as Jason Aldean’s ‘Black Tears’ form his Night Train album. Everyone who’s ever sat on a bar stool has know someone like in this song.

‘Haven’t Seen the Last of You’ is another where Toby brings the quiet despair of being haunted by the memories of a lost love:

Carrying on like nothing’s wrong/
in the spot we hung out in/
Explaining why we said good bye when I run into our friends/
Ride home on the road you rode last night when you rode out/ Walk through the door and cross the floor I feel you in this house

I’ll have these memories of you in my mind if I don’t go insane/
And I’ll dream about you girl if I don’t lie here wide awake/

I know it’s ended/
I know its finished/
It’s done but I’m not through/
Staring at the ceiling I got a feeling/
I haven’t seen the last of you

What I love about this one is the melody. It’s even, steady, not overly dramatic. Toby’s voice has the quality of someone who’s living it as he sings, but it’s a still stunned kind of delivery; an acceptance of ‘I’m gonna be hurting and haunted for a while.’ Don’t know where he reached within himself to get that kind of emotion, but I do know this one’s gonna touch quite a few people and bring back some ghosts for others. Have your whiskey handy when you listen to it.

‘Missed You Just Right’ is a little bit more on the happier side of love. This tune tells the tale of running into and old flame with the twist being you got over them; moved on; and found the ‘love of my life.’ This twist comes right within the first few lines of the first verse. This is opposite of so many songs that would leave it until chorus, bridge or even last verse. It give the song a lot more impact than leaving it as a surprise at the end.

Getting even more upbeat, is the song ‘Get Got’, which strings together a bunch of wisdom phrases. This type of song could be a failure due to it’s nonsense nature; there’s no real story here, but Keith manages to deliver it with a lightness that goes perfect with the music which will have you toe-tapping along. I can see this being a popular one in concerts with a crowd singing along.

‘Scat Cat’ is a hard-rocking jazzy number about moonrunning that’s got an infectious driving beat to it. Though the subject matter is somewhat serious, it’s a fun little, bad boy/bad times song that will have you smiling while you sing it.

‘The Size that I Wear’ is my favorite of the lighter songs. It’s about competing with a buddy when trying to pick up a gal. Though the song is a little sexist in places; i.e., ‘she was round in places she’s supposed to be round’, it’s honest in it’s lyrics about how men make some of the choices in the type of women that they like. Plus, the main thrust of the song is how men treat each other when vying over a pretty woman:

You’re a mighty be fella/
But I don’t care/
Stand back, John/
That’s the size that I wear

‘Beers Ago’ and ‘Red Solo Cup’ are remixed on the album, but it doesn’t add anything to either song. In fact, with ‘Beers Ago’, it detracts from it. The song wasn’t made to be a thumping house beat; it was made to rock. And ‘Red Solo Cup’ just sounds like they switched out the underlying tracks just to get an additional song on the album.

The CD art is great. The artist kept with the liquor theme including pages with bottle sweat on them. That is what I liked the most. I thought it was a clever nod to the title. The photos of Keith, though, seem almost dropped in at random. While I find Toby Keith a very attractive looking artist and would love to see numerous photos of him, I felt that the photos here actually don’t compliment the theme of the CD.

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