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Toby Keith White Trash With Money

   Affixing labels to Toby Keith is almost a cottage industry at this point. The obvious definitions include country music superstar, chart-topping recording Click here to order CD.artist and top-grossing live performer. Less recognized though no less significant descriptions include perennial award winner and nominee, subject of consistent critical acclaim and new label president. Challenging these for prominence are the various characterizations, at times caricatures, pinned on Keith by a mass media that thrives on political divisiveness.
   Too often lost in the discussion, however, are the identities without which the rest would not exist: Songwriter. Vocalist. Musician. Producer. Entertainer. Toby Keith possesses, quite frankly, rare musical talent. Prodigious talent, even. It is his music that made him arguably the most visible country artist of this millennium. It is his music that made him such a success. And it is his music that made him a lightning rod for controversy. More than anything, however, it is his music that proves Keith's ability to communicate honestly and directly with millions of ordinary Americans. Of all people, his talent isn't lost on his fans.
   White Trash With Money, then, serves as a much-needed reminder of Toby Keith's most outstanding attributes. His approach to creating the album, from the impossibly direct songwriting effort to enlisting a new co-producer, reveals an artist with the self assurance to take real risks. The ever-widening range of sounds and styles he employs show a diversity of influence and little regard for creative boundaries. And the end result is a collection of songs that reveal a deft touch for balancing serious material with a good bit of fun, too.
   "Get Drunk And Be Somebody," the album's first smash single, is a good example of Keith's dry humor and observational eye. "A Little Too Late" is bit of straightforward songwriting that enjoys as lavish a production as anything he's ever released. And "Crash Here Tonight," which he calls the most tender love song of his career, shows just how far across the music spectrum he's able to comfortably range.
   "This album launches my Show Dog venture," Keith says, referencing the transition from Universal to his own independent label. "It's an honest effort and I'm real proud of it. As long as I can continue making music the way I do, I couldn't be happier. I've accomplished everything else."
  That he has. The young man from Oklahoma made a grand entrance in country music with 1993's "Shoulda Been A Cowboy," a No. 1 smash that cut the ice for his double platinum debut album. Over the next five years he released a string of hits including
"A Little Less Talk and a Lot More Action," "You Ain't Much Fun" and "Who's That Man." His career, however, not only failed to progress but backslid as he wrestled with his label.
   Eventually dropped by Mercury Records in 1999, Keith signed on with independent upstart DreamWorks and turned his fortunes around almost immediately. A succession of career changing songs starting with "
How Do You Like Me Now?!" and including "You Shouldn't Kiss Me Like This," "I'm Just Talkin' About Tonight" and "I Wanna Talk About Me" followed. Finally back to the double platinum sales threshold at which his career began, Keith was poised for a tremendous step forward.
   His next single, a reaction to September 11 titled "Courtesy Of The Red, White And Blue (The Angry American)," was no more or less a singular moment of honest emotion than any of his other songs. The response, however, was quite different. "Courtesy" became an anthem in the war on terror and placed Keith's name at the center of a media debate that had nothing to do with music. Not given to politically correct apologies, he became a target of criticism but wasn't inclined to defend himself from absurd johnny-one-note portrayals. Toby was moving on, and millions of country fans were right with him.
   "Who's Your Daddy?" and the Willie Nelson duet "Beer For My Horses" pushed his Unleashed album past four million in sales, while "I Love This Bar," "American Soldier," "Whiskey Girl" and a couple of "bus songs" did the same for his Shock'N Y'all release. Fully established as one of the top touring acts in the nation and with a couple of Entertainer of the Year awards under his belt, Keith had carried DreamWorks to the top echelons of country labels.
   But in 2004, DreamWorks was acquired by the parent company of Keith's first label. His next studio release, Honkytonk University, came out on Universal and became his most critically-acclaimed release to date. At the same time, it spawned three hit singles -- the title track, "Big Blue Note" and the multi-week No. 1 "As Good As I Once Was."
   Finding again that the label conglomerate structure didn't suit him, Keith negotiated his release from Universal and established Show Dog Nashville, for which his newest album is the first release. Keith's departure from Universal also brings an end to his long run with producer James Stroud. His co-producer for this project is Lari White, an acclaimed singer and songwriter who had a gold country album on RCA/Nashville in the mid-nineties. Though this is White's highest-profile turn as a producer, her relationship with Keith stretches back many years.
   "Sometimes the worst thing you can do with a friend is get in business with them," Keith says. "You could get two or three songs in, figure out it's not working and that makes for hard feelings when you have to call it off. So I said let's just do two or three demos. We'll listen to some new sounds and guitar players and if we like them we'll move on."
   Toby wasn't just happy with the demos for "Can't Buy You Money," "Get Drunk And Be Somebody" and "A Little Too Late," he told White to master them for the album. "I left the studio with the first single and put it right in my promotion staff's hands," he says. "Then we went back in the studio and kept right on going to finish the album.
   "Lari's as talented a producer as she is a singer," he continues. "She has an incredible bag of tricks. It wasn't any more freedom -- James always let me do whatever I wanted, but it was a lot of new ideas and a nice change."
   What hasn't changed is Keith's approach to putting an album together. "We're not setting out to achieve results," he explains. "We go in honestly. Doing the demos with Lari was strictly to make sure our production partnership was going to work, but I've never done demos. I go in the studio, sit down with an acoustic guitar and say to the musicians, 'Look here.' We dick with it a little bit, they write up a chart and we hit record. I've cut a few songs more than once, but most of the time it just takes one."
   That one-to-one ratio holds true in his songwriting as well. Toby wrote 12 songs for White Trash With Money and he recorded 12. The contributions of frequent co-writer Scotty Emerick (who's expected to have an album out on Show Dog this year) is again featured prominently, as is noted Music Row songsmith Dean Dillon. "I had a two day layover in Albuquerque and instead of flying home we got a hotel suite, ate a lot of green chili and wrote five songs for the album," Keith says.
   Many of the co-writes with Emerick come from having the writer on the road with him. Not only does he perform as one of the tour opening acts, he also joins Keith on stage to perform the "bus songs" the two write together. "Scotty rides my bus on the tour, so if I get a good idea we can just sit down and write it," Keith says. "If he wasn't around I might play around with it for a couple weeks and eventually write it myself. But when you've got someone around who might spring open that one door that just makes a song fly, all you need is that moment of inspiration and you're off."
   That constant immersion in music and the creative process shows in the breadth of sounds on the album. Horns on the single "Get Drunk And Be Somebody." A lush string arrangement that harkens back to the classic Nashville Sound on "A Little Too Late." Subtle passion on the ballad "Crash Here Tonight." The first pounding forcefulness of "I Ain't Already There." A swampy, Dobro-stirred flavor with "Brand New Bow." Three new "bus songs," which have quickly become a favorite with his fans. Each song, each sound defines this moment of his music.
   "When 9-11 happened I had a bunch of songs out that had signs of the times running through them," Keith says. "If you listen to that pile of songs now you can kind of tell what was going on in my world at the time. This new album is pretty much a laid back, fun, redneck, rockin' roadhouse group. You can tell last year was a good one for me by listening to these songs."
   Read his clips from the past 12 months and you'll see that Toby Keith has been heralded as Billboard's top selling Country artist, positioned in a major national television campaign for Ford, opened his own chain of I Love This Bar & Grill restaurants, filmed his first major motion picture for Paramount and launched a ground-up country label, among so many other milestones and accolades. But for him, and for the millions who will buy his new album, the real story is in the music

Click here for more information on Toby Keith's Album and the songs on the album, White Trash With Money.


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