The pandemic wasn’t the time off from work everyone had expected. But for many artists, it was the most humbling time to write new music. Toby Keith has been known how to start the party for over a decade. But after six years between albums, the Oklahoman shows new variety in his music. While others were trapped inside home studios or barricaded in writing rooms, Keith took to the open road for a quick jog. The practice of burning off some steam and restlessness produced an album that has plenty to say.
Most people take up something constructive when they have a lot of time on their hands. But when reflecting on making Pesos in My Pocket, Keith adds, “I’d look at song ideas I had in my phone before I started running and then I would take off. Next thing I know, my time would be up, and I’d have been constantly working, grinding my gears in my head about the songs.” Now at the age of 60, the longtime crowd-pleaser showed no intention of slowing down. “Oklahoma Breakdown” adds what everyone expects of the singer; to bring a good time and liven up the place. For fans of the traditional form of country music, you’ll find plenty to enjoy here as the opener is rockin’ track. Keith’s back road setting has been the feature of his music for almost the entirety of his career. But the song looks back on the appreciation of crowds again with everyone emerging for the celebrations.
Hardiness and good time pleasure are all of what’s made Keith continue shooting out hits. Lead single, “Old School”, is just another one to add to the list of jams that leap onto your radio to start the day off right. Outside contributors Ryan Hurd, Maren Morris and Brett Tyler all added their spin to the summertime hit. And what a hit it’s become as the single went on to be the highest Billboard country airplay chart debut of his career. Keith keeps it “old school” when reflecting his life and how he lives it today. As the singer puts it, “Not much has changed.” The throwback energy mixes Keith in with a new generation as TikToker’s revisit the 90s era. For the carefree and easygoing youth, the attitude this track brings is a perfect mix of old school meets new school.
A happy-go-lucky approach wouldn’t be complete without a little sarcasm. It just isn’t the same if Keith didn’t have that trademark serene mood in his record. The self-titled track has the signature humor that everyone has come to know the singer for. As the chorus states, “I have a peso in my pocket/ a pepper in my pants/ got a poncho on my shoulder/ a cha cha in my dance.” Sly humor and wit compel any listener brought into the caveat of Keith’s music to step along in the groove. But the Mexico-inspired tune soaks in all the feel-good vibes to make room for a serious tone that the singer breaks down.
When the pandemic had first hit the US, Keith was in Mexico trying to make sense of the situation and how to get back home. But with the key additions of tracks that brings up the good times, the singer changes the tune to reflect of the love of his country. Anyone who’s followed the singer during his career is well aware of how outspoken he is for America. But the closing track showers all the feels in “Happy Birthday America”. During his several months out of the country with COVID happening, Keith stated, “It was like being on the moon. A lot my friends down there were afraid they wouldn’t be let back in the US, so they all went home. I wasn’t on the road and nobody could go anywhere.” But Keith was brought down to earth when looking at the unrest that’s plagued the country in his eyes. The patriotic vibes ring out while keeping it simple and serene with Keith being laid back but weary of today’s problems.
You can always count on Keith to provide a variety of liveliness and vibrancy in his works. Here, fans and listeners can find both with quality songs that convey serious issues but remain friendly. The classic country sound is what Keith knows the most, but with a little youthful vigor, the “old school” speaks to a new crowd that anyone can get behind in this record. Pesos in My Pocket is available on all streaming platforms with a vinyl release that drops December 10th.
Written by Trenton Luber