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Toby Keith in a bar is not a foreign concept when it comes to the story lines of his videos. But his latest clip, for new single “Hope on the Rocks,” is far more sobering than any past tavern-set videos.
The black-and-white video, once again directed by Toby’s longtime collaborator Michael Salomon, mirrors the song’s descriptive lyrics of lost souls finding some bit of comfort in a bar, and a willing listener in the bartender—played by Toby.
“The bartender is also a baby-sitter. You’re the brother, you’re the father, you’re the mentor, you’re the guru, the help line, the suicide hotline, you’re everything,” Toby says. “A bartender that is just working in a meat market doesn’t have to deal with that, but a cat in a neighborhood bar with regulars, he hears it all.”
In “Hope on the Rocks,” those regulars include a washed-up ball player, a grieving mother and an always-drunk divorcé, all of them characters thought up by Toby, the sole writer of the song.
“It’s one of my favorite things that I’ve ever written. It’s got such a powerful message. It’s not a bumper-sticker song, you know?” he says.
Nonetheless, there are moments of lightheartedness—and, appropriately, hope—in the video. As an all-are-welcome bartender, Toby offers a ready smile and a roof over the head of a homeless woman, takes the keys from a barfly and even cajoles some of the patrons into dancing. But while socializing may be the cornerstone of every watering hole, Toby says it goes deeper than just drinking and shooting the bull.
“People think I’m crazy when I say it, but bars do a lot of the same things socially that churches do. They do dart leagues, pool leagues, trips. If somebody gets down and out and don’t have insurance, they raise money, pass the fishbowl, bring in bands and donate money,” he says. “They take care of each other.”