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Toby Keith, ‘Clancy’s Tavern’

October 25, 2011

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Toby Keith cultivates an image of a good-timing, blustering, flag-waving, good ol’ boy. Dig into his records, though, and you’ll find a different, or at least more variegated picture. His latest, “Clancy’s Tavern,’’ is no different in that regard. To be sure, at points the album serves his image, kicking off on an implicitly patriotic note via the heartland portrayal of “Made in America’’ and nodding to the party-hearty crowd with the tongue-in-cheek ode, “Red Solo Cup.’’ But “Clancy’s Tavern’’ is dominated by songs of a different stripe, most of them about losing love or trying to cope with its loss: the slow heartbreak ballad “Just Another Sundown’’; the relaxed, tropical-tinged melancholy of “Chill-axin’ ’’; the contemporary-style hard-country stomp of “I Need to Hear a Country Song,’’ which explores the attraction of songs about heartache (“Instead of hurtin’ by myself/I’ll just sing along’’) while being one at the same time. The album’s most affecting moment, though, is rooted in homage; inspired by the life of Keith’s grandmother, the title track is a gorgeous, Celtic-tinged waltz that limns a simple, stately picture of the day-to-days of a working-class corner bar and its proprietress. (Out now) STUART MUNRO

ESSENTIAL “Clancy’s Tavern’’