Bullets in the Gun by Toby Keith

The most obvious departure on Toby Keith’s latest release is the absence of political statements like “American Ride” or “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue,” which have become one of the singer’s distinctive hallmarks. Instead, he packs the album with songs meant to heal (or at least dull) a broken heart, such as “Ain’t Breakin’ Nothin’” or “Is That All You Got.” Toby’s tough-guy persona sounds more authentic on the Bonnie and Clyde-esque opener “Bullets in the Gun” than on the poppy “Somewhere Else.”

Otherwise he deftly balances rowdy barnburners such as “Drive It On Home” with ballads that complement his burly vocals. The good-girl-meets-bad-boy scenario of “Kissin’ in the Rain” provides an alternate ending to his 2008 hit “God Love Her.”

One low point is the sexually demeaning, but tongue-in-cheek, “Get Out of My Car,” which is worth skipping—that time is better spent listening to Toby tip his hat to his influences on the Deluxe Edition’s extra tracks, which include live renditions of such classics as Johnny Paycheck’s “11 Months and 29 Days” and Waylon Jennings’ “I’ve Been a Long Time Leaving (but I’ll Be a Long Time Gone).”

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