Friendly Ghost of a Mullet

Funk upon a time, when the hairy Feminazi darkness spread across the land, it became necessary for a clown prince to assume the position, a wise fool who could justify or sugarpie the base ballin' ways of batman to wombman. Thus, from Jughead's Archie to Meathead's, from Ozzie and Harriet's paranoid Ozzie to Paranoid's (and The Osbournes') Ozzy: As the wig is bent, it came to be, from sea to shining sea.

Except in the country which is just called Country, 'cause y'all know where to find us. We had such a prince—Garth Brooks (a/k/a Harsh Mellow)—butt after a while he was hardly ever home. So it was that, from the ranks of stud-puppets consoling his lonely harem, one must step up to the plate (others gradually to be sacrificed for the evilcological balance of the herd). One son who would never stray, just conveniently go 'way (for your beauty rest), and then come back with grapes peeled like you never saw!

Or so you'd be ready to tell him, this Toby Keith, this Oklahoma! Citybilly, this formerly oil-refinin', pro (well, USFL) footballa, with eyes, brains, and pipes under his Jimmie-no-crack-corn (prophylactic) hat. Ready or not, he comes chuggin' 'round the cloudbank, with his high voice (zero faux-Mexicali Marty Robbins hair-tonic trills), and his low vibrato (free of Waylonic soft-soap opry). Nothing forced. He's too busy to belabor a point, much less a note.

Such chuggin', from a John Waite "Missing You"/Puff Daddy "I'll Be Missing You" (but not Stones "Miss You," not yet) template on his dogtag, also would go good with fiddles, if he bothered. No banjos either, and there's only one of him (sob), and he's Homecoming Court-bait like his old tourmate Shania—therefore he's not quite the Dixie Chicks, but if he were a gal, he'd be called spunky, and that's close enough. 'Specially since the actual D.C.s are busy in non-Homecoming court, and anyhow, it just wouldn't work if we didn't hear a big ol' guy's guy ode-ing up to the joys of submission, for instance on the (burns like a paper sun and candy rain) title track of his current slab, Pull My Chain. So of course it's "Pull my chain, Toby Keith!" on his message board now. Netgals also hijack "I wanna talk about mememememe," from "I Wanna Talk About Me," in which a Good Listener just gets taken for granted, as Toby discovers then erupts over, in a way that slays 'em in the henhouse. He also flows more rapneck genius than was even dreamt of by Fred Durst (Fred: "B-b-but it was written by Bobby 'He Stopped Loving Her Today' Braddock! No fair!" True).

When "You Leave Me Weak" (goood depletion) gets followed and swallowed by "Tryin' to Matter" (bad depletion), and identifying with the artist gets cold, the ladies have gender lines to scurry back across, if they want 'em. I could use an escape hatch myself, from recognizing the persistent hopefulness (rather than the expected Country Western self-pity, served up jest ratt) that makes "Tryin' " so painful (as I'm sure Tobe knows) (bitch). Hope might also be the wild hair that makes the faithful married man roar, struttin' about not being one to "Pick Em Up and Lay Em Down" ("down, down, down," he mutters at one point). And hope prods the twisting sheets of "Forever Hasn't Got Here Yet" (the verdict just in: "makeup sex," but not Seinfeld's).

The previous album, How Ya Like . . . ('scuse me, Kool Mo Dee) How Do You Like Me Now, was a chug-to-glide-to-hover-to-Hova-to-ova (title track, anyway, livin' inside your radio) airshow of lifelines. This one rocks harder, dreams paler, rarely in black-and-white; this isn't Pleasantville, it's Burbtown (in late Spring, we're green and gray, OK?).

 
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