Toby Keith

Those of you who hate Big Toby's right-wing orthodoxy are making a mistake if you reject his music, too. Sure, he's got a reactionary streak an acre wide, but so do Merle Haggard and plenty of other country artists worth hearing. Dismissing him because he's not the Dixie Chicks' ideological cousin is like expecting Lauryn Hill fans to burn all their Jay-Z discs. Besides, Keith's politically incorrect style is a gigantic relief, given the considerable percentage of Trashville contemporaries who are sensitive, mature and monumentally dull. In some ways, Greatest Hits 2, his latest collection, is a parade of wrongness, including "Stays in Mexico," a current smash that celebrates, rather than castigates, infidelity, and the one-two punch of "How Do You Like Me Now?!" and "I Wanna Talk About Me," in which he comes across as the most egocentric jerk this side of Donald Trump. But when Keith's bad, he's better. Indeed, the new album's sweetest moment, a just-recorded duet pairing him with his teenage daughter, Krystal, on the James Taylor-Carly Simon pukefest "Mockingbird," is far and away its worst. On CD and in concert, Keith's cocksure swagger turns the choicest of his tunes into guilty pleasures even lefties can love.


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