Way back in the '90's, before millions of dollars, high profile political feuds and moguldom, Toby Keith could really sing and write a pretty good song! News flash! He still can on his nostalgic, 18th album.
You can hear an unexpected Merle Haggard influence all over this record. The title cut, "35 MPH" evokes a Haggard vibe. Think "Roots Of My Raising - 2015" as Keith laments the loss of the commonplace, now gone forever. What could've easily been an appeal to the lowest common denominator, instead registers as an earnest appeal to retain the values that make us who we are.
"Drunk Americans" could be easily overlooked as "I Love This Bar, 2.0," which it is, sort of, aside from being a pretty good song on its own. Several here actually are. There is "Good Gets Here," bringing to mind another Haggard tune, "It's Not Love, (But It's Not Bad)" as an ode to loving the best you can. Another standout is an aftermath tune, "What I Left Behind" far more akin to "Who's That Man" than "Red Solo Cup."
A duet with Jimmy Buffett, "Sailboat For Sale" is a nice departure, and "Haggard, Hank, and You" may be the most straight-ahead country song from Keith's pen in years. Still, it is the current single, "Beautiful Stranger," that packs the biggest surprise. Keith can sing, really sing, when he wants too. A vintage listen to "We Were In Love" provides ample testimony. So too, does this one. This is Keith being the vocalist that he has been and can be again.