Renowned country musician Toby Keith’s latest album 35 MPH Town is a curious collection of songs which sees Keith lurch from jukebox ballad to requisite up-tempo rocker. At times, the songs seem overproduced – party anthems Good Gets Here or 10 Foot Pole feature ostentatious horn sections which, although interesting explorations of the modern country genre and its limits, feel entirely unnecessary. Conversely, the album’s opener Drunk Americans feels lazily produced and somewhat hokey in its approach to subject matter, with Keith offering a musical bear-hug to every American over the claim that alcohol can solve any bad blood. Ultimately, what tries to be a rousing drinking anthem falls a little bit flat and feels a little bit forced.
The oddest musical moment comes in the form of Rum Is The Reason, a calypso-style ditty which overlays Caribbean steel drums with traditional country guitars while Keith laments that “rum is the reason why pirates never ruled the world”. This is immediately followed by the downtempo ballad What She Left, a jarring transition which discredits an otherwise well-written tune about losing love.
Country cliches abound throughout the album, from the booze-soaked lyrics to the repeated subject matter of heartbreak and joyfully excessive use of slide pedal on Keith’s guitar. Which is not to say the album is in and of itself a cliche, but that it simply doesn’t bring anything new to the table, which is sad considering the vitality of Keith’s earlier work.
Although it doesn’t exactly break any new ground, 35 MPH Town is still a round collection of solid, cater-to-the-masses modern country. There’s not exactly anything to praise, but then again there’s nothing to heavily criticise, either.