Discounting its lumbering opener “Made in America” -- an ode to middle America disconcertingly scored to echoing guitar copped from the Edge -- Toby Keith plants his flag firmly in the country on Clancy’s Tavern. Modern man that he is, Keith’s definition of country is rooted in ‘70s outlaw, but not beholden to twangy Teles and slow-rolling acoustics -- he opens up enough to allow a Caribbean breeze to blow in when he’s taking a moment to “Chill-Ax,” he croons sweetly on “Just Another Sundown,” he even leans on a little melancholic Irish lilt on the title track, just one of many drinking songs on an album named after a bar. Keith measures his memories by beer and hoists a “Red Solo Cup” in a riotous party that goes a long way in explaining what’s right with Clancy’s Tavern.
The loud-and-proud Nashville star digs into politics once again on lead single ”Made in America,” which laments the sight of ”foreign cars filled with fuel that isn’t ours.” (Later, ”Red Solo Cup” flies its flag for Margaritaville.) Yet much of Clancy’s Tavern — named after a bar Keith’s grandmother once ran — strikes a quieter, more intimate note: ”South of You” is a gentleman’s kiss-off, while the lovely ”Just Another Sundown” could almost pass for James Taylor. B+ Download These:Rowdy rocker Beers AgoAcoustic ballad Just Another Sundown .
Setting aside its two singles for just a moment, Clancy’s Tavern is a fairly rote reiteration of the same album that Toby Keith has been re-recording once a year since 2005’s Honkytonk University. While there’s something to be said for his work ethic and relative dependability, a good-sized chunk of Clancy’s Tavern feels phoned in, and Keith is simply too big a personality and too dynamic a singer to get away with something lackadaisical. It’s unfortunate that the couple of brighter moments on the album happen to be counterbalanced by some genuinely gross songs that play into the worst stereotypes about both Keith and country music as a whole.