|Personnel: Ilya Toshinsky (acoustic guitar, banjo); Steven Sheehan (acoustic guitar); Jerry McPherson, Kenny Greenberg, Brent Mason (electric guitar); Paul Franklin (dobro); Randy Scruggs (banjo); Aubrey Haynie (mandolin, fiddle); John Catchings, Kristin Wilkinson, Mary Kathryn Van Osdale, David Angell (strings); Dave Koz (saxophone); Steve Nathan (piano, keyboards); Charles Judge (synthesizer, programming); Chris McHugh (drums); Jim Hoke (Jew's harp); Eric Darken, Arthur Thompson (percussion); Angela Primm, Perry Coleman, Gayle Mayes (background vocals).
|With most contemporary country artists, you could guarantee that a song called "American Ride" would be a slice of jingoism, but Toby Keith isn't like most country singers. His "American Ride" casts a cynical eye at desperate housewives and wannabe pop stars, not celebrating down-home values but wondering where we're all headed on this American Ride at the end of the 2000s, a sentiment not all that far removed from some of Keith's previous social commentary, which makes it a mild surprise that it is the only song here that doesn't come from his own pen. As superb and striking as it is, it's not necessarily a good keystone for the rest of the record, which does have a few tougher numbers that pick up on the lean, mean vibe of 2008's THAT DON'T MAKE ME A BAD GUY -- "Every Dog Has Its Day," the sly "If I Had One," and the heavy blues stomp "Loaded" -- but spends more time on the softer side, even when he kicks up a bit of dust on the dancefloor on "You Can't Read My Mind" or does a funny, respectful salute to military life on "Ballad of Balad." In other words, the real touchstone for the rest of the record is "Tender as I Wanna Be," where he lets his guard down and lets the romance flow. This doesn't turn AMERICAN RIDE into a schizophrenic jumble, as Keith has always balanced these two extremes, but after spending a little bit more time swaggering than wooing, he's back to crooning and it's amiable and appealing.