Toby Keef: Honky Tonk Nightmare Fuel
Review by Alex Q. Huffman
For decades now, Toby Keef has remained both an enigma and a straight shooter with more answers than questions. Piggybacking off the success of his Airport Chain Bar “Terminal Fun,” the baritone songster delights us with his latest offering, “Honky Tonk Nightmare Fuel.” Capitalizing on a built-in fan base has been the go-to model for decades- Still, Toby Keef blazed his own path by crowdfunding this new album, in person, by answering Task Rabbit ads and helping average Americans with their chores. And boy, does the production value reflect those efforts. It truly embodies the sound of someone cleaning a stranger’s attic on a Wednesday.
The opening track, “I’m Your Woman,” is a bit of an audio time capsule detailing the rocky start of Toby’s life. The track opens with what appears to be a drunken answering machine message from a young Mrs. Keef to a supposedly philandering Poppa Keef. As she begins to accuse him of numerous infidelities, the faint chords of a 12-string guitar appear. The song kicks in as she screams, “I’m YOUR Woman.” Holding down Bass Guitar duties is none other than Admiral “Colonel” Gibbs, Toby’s longtime songwriting partner and touring keyboardist. The washed-out/chorused Bass guitar was an interesting choice for this track, and it really opens up the sonic landscape. On Drums, we have Brice Glick- Another familiar face for Toby. Brice is best known for his off-stage antics that tend to result in rumors of arson, but on this tune, it’s the drums that are smoking. Tasty fills and laid-back beats abound on this track, and the energy of a man accused of international crimes can be felt in every train beat.
Skipping ahead a few tracks, we arrive upon “If These Balls Could Talk,”- An oddly named tribute to American Sports. The lyrics are a pastiche/homage to particular eras of Music and Sports. Deftly moving from the sounds of 1920s Gene Austin inspired Country Lo-Fi all the way to a blatant ripoff of Old Town Road (the court case is pending as we go to publishing), If These Balls Could Talk an audio adventure! Documenting the good ol’ days of Peach Baskets hung on walls by James Naismith to the present-day concussion scandals of The NFL, every era is covered. Clocking in at a monstrous 14:57, this track makes Opeth look like Agoraphobic Nosebleed. Hats off to Mixing Engineer Hue K. Stoss for having the patience to mix the rumored 198 takes required to bring this concept to life.
Mossy Oak Breakup Text is a real mud stomper! Detailing an alcohol-fueled hunting weekend spurred on by a breakup text, Toby kicks the album into high gear with catchy verses and an instant-classic sing-along hook! You can expect to hear “You made me shoot my cooler, Whitney” at every karaoke bar for decades to come.
Making a surprise appearance on Who Shot This Deer (In Particular) is none other than Jeff Foxworthy! I had to check Wikipedia to make sure he was alive and sure enough…Jeff Foxworthy! This Skit is a follow-up to Mossy Oak Breakup featuring a back and forth between Jeff and Toby as Jeff realizes it was actually HIS cooler that got hit with thirty ought six rounds. Toby keeps deflecting by claiming he shot an 11 point buck (in particular) and not the cooler, but Jeff continues to remind him that only Toby went hunting. …it’s the audio equivalent of a “You had to be there” joke.
57 minutes and 23 seconds into the album, we arrive at the final track, “Callin’ It A Day.” This song is as stripped down as it gets. A mouth harp and a leather boot are the only accompaniment to Toby’s mystifyingly gritty vocals. Summoning the listener to visit one of his 216 Terminal Fun locations in the contiguous United States, Toby Keef makes a heartfelt plea only to use one paper napkin as he educates us on the trivial details of the Airport Chain-Bar industry. (I had no idea that the Airports didn’t provide the plastic forks. This was a real eye-opener for me.) Toby leads us to a standing-ovation worthy dismount as he passionately explains that writing off the expenses of Windex is much trickier than you would think.
Overall, this album sets a new standard for albums funded via chores. Every bead of sweat, every job-well-done handshake, and every penny of the 15% Task Rabbit fee Toby had to hand over was worth it! Without a doubt, I can say I listened to this album and then reviewed it.
1: I’m Your Woman
2: If I Ain’t Then You Cain’t
3: Muddy Boots And Memories
4: If These Balls Could Talk
5: Next To Last Call
6: Mossy Oak Breakup Text
7: 3 Chords And A Half-Truth
8: Sell Me The Sizzle And The Steak
9: Who Shot This Deer (In Particular) – skit Featuring Jeff Foxworthy
10: Callin’ It A Day