Toby Keith 

Big Dog Daddy

It's hard to imagine a sentimental tune like "I Know She Hung the Moon" coming from Toby Keith, the hothead country king who bullied the Dixie Chicks and hocked the most jingoistic singles since "Ballad of the Green Berets." If the Chicks' sympathy sweep at the Grammys signified one of the more curious cultural reactions to our prolonged war, the softening of their foil on Big Dog Daddy is no less telling. Its lone political address, "Love Me If You Can," redacts Keith's former "boot in the ass" foreign policy to suggest we "agree to disagree." The times, they are a-changed. Even without the agro politicking, Keith still rolls up the sleeves for the burly riffs of "Hit It" and "Get My Drink On" (which, by the way, name-check competing brands of whiskey), but these days he hardly resembles the war-hungry horndog half of America loves to hate. He dispenses universal longing for days when gas was 50 cents a gallon (the record's best, "White Rose") and advises the broken-hearted ("Walk It Off"). When he does wiggle out of his jeans for a quickie in the pickup ("Burnin' Moonlight"), it includes an apology for the brevity of his performance — to his wife. The songs have always been catchy, but now they're more than older and wiser; they might have the ingredient to help Keith win over blue America: humility.

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