Raise a drink to Keith's latest effort

Singer-songwriter Toby Keith’s latest album, “Drinks After Work,” delivers the country singer’s signature blend of charming twang, inventive lyrics and line-dance rhythm. “Drinks After Work” is Keith’s 17th release and marks the 20-year anniversary of his first album, “Toby Keith.”

Fortunately for the Oklahoma native, the debut single from “Toby Keith,” “Should’ve Been a Cowboy,” hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart in June of ‘93. The track eventually became the most-played country song of the 1990s, receiving more than three million spins on country radio. “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” catapulted Keith into a career of commercial success and within-genre controversy. In 2002, Keith and Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines engaged in a public feud after she criticized his purportedly “jingoistic” song “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American).”

The lead single and title track for “Drinks After Work” is a less contentious tune. Memorable and lighthearted, “Drinks After Work” is, coincidentally, the only song on the album not written or co-written by Keith himself. It actually wasn’t even originally intended to headline the album. After settling into his Nashville studio in May of 2012, Keith heard about a large tornado approaching his hometown, less than two miles from his sister’s neighborhood. Although he had only finished recording four tracks, he left the studio to rush back to Oklahoma, leaving few options for the single.

Although such thoughtless allocation of a title track is a bit disconcerting, it’s unsurprising after tasting Keith’s easygoing personality on the latest album. With the exception of hip-hop embellishments on the opening track, “Shut Up and Hold On,” Keith refuses to fall privy to Nashville trends. Mixing country ballads such as “The Other Side of Him” with energetic, toe-tapping melodies like “Show Me What You’re Workin’ With,” “Drinks After Work,” demonstrates Keith’s continuity as an artist.

Furthermore, the album is thematically timeless. Keith spends a significant portion of “Drinks After Work” attempting to wrap his head around the idea of lost love, focusing on missed romantic opportunities in “Little Miss Tear Stain,” “The Other Side of Him” and “Whole Lot More Than That.”

Perhaps the only disconnected element is the album’s puzzling touch of Caribbean flair. “I’ll Probably Be Out Fishin’” begins with a wooden xylophone and the bonus edition of the album concludes with Sammy Hagar’s cover of “Margaritaville,” on which Keith featured. Listeners could interpret the beachy twist as Keith’s musical versatility or simply his inclination toward salt-rimmed glasses and sandy toes.

By the final song, “Drinks After Work” has tackled familiar subjects, but its familiarity might be its largest weakness. Although the lyrics are clever and the melodies catchy, Keith’s new album doesn’t sound new at all — it feels like something you’ve heard before, played low in the car or at a restaurant. The title track will probably work its way on to the radio, but the album won’t revolutionize Keith’s career.

After a 20-year successful run, however, I doubt Keith is concerned. “Drinks After Work” can be seen as an appropriate celebration of Keith’s longevity and durability. Now that the work is over, I bet he’ll drink to that.

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