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Toby Keith


American Ride
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American Ride

There are 12 brand new tracks, all but one either written or co- written by Toby. American Ride is the fastest selling single in 8 years. Toby Keith collaborates with Pinson on the smoldering "Are You Feelin' Me" and barely restrained "You Can't Read My Mind." The two cook up a little honkytonk fun with "Every Dog Has Its Day" (with John Waples), the grin-inducing "If I Had One" and the full-throttle "Loaded." And he still writes alone, offering up the confessional "Woke Up On My Own" and dialing up the romance on "Tender As I Want To Be." His only allusion to the effort devoted to sustaining such a successful career comes on the Pinson collaboration "Gypsy Driftin'." "It can be tough beating it up on the road this long, going onstage when you're tired or sick," Keith says. "But as soon as you step out there the fans wave their flames and sing along with every song and it makes it all better. So that song's kind of a tip-of-the-hat to the people who've supported us all these years." The straight-up Memphis blues of "If You're Tryin' You Ain't" offers a change of pace from Keith's previous work. "I was in the Oklahoma University locker room at halftime of a football game and saw four or five boys getting taped up," Keith recalls. "There's a guy there who keeps a handful of rolls of tape on his belt. I said, 'Are you tryin' to get everybody healthy?' And he said, 'If you're tryin', you ain't.'" Another solo Keith composition, "The Ballad of Balad," was inspired by one of the Oklahoman's annual USO Tours to forward operating bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. "We were landing at this FOB called Balad and I asked if it was pronounced 'ballad' or 'buh-lodd.' They said it was 'buh-lodd' and I decided to write a song called 'The Ballad of Balad' about an Army recruiter talking to a slacker. I started playing it on the USO Tour last year and it was the hit of the parade." American Ride's emotional center is "Cryin' For Me (Wayman's Song)," which Keith wrote for the funeral of his close friend Wayman Tisdale. An All-American basketball player at Oklahoma, first round NBA draft pick and 12-year player, Tisdale went on to have a very successful career as a renowned jazz bass player. "Great big charismatic smile," Toby says. "He didn't have a wall up, he was just one of the good guys." Tisdale lost a leg to bone cancer in 2008 and struggled through leukemia, finishing his last rounds of chemo and tests early in 2009. "He called me in May on a Wednesday and left a voicemail asking if he could lease a couple buses from me," Toby says of his friend. "He had a clean bill of health and was ready to start playing dates again. I called him back Thursday and left a message telling him he could just use them. I wasn't on the road. The next morning I was doing phoners for my European tour that's coming up and got a text from my wife that said Wayman died. And I thought, no, he's been sick but he didn't die. "Come to find out, he'd been having complications breathing. The chemo caused his throat to tighten down, his wife drove him to the hospital, they laid him down and looked at him and he died right there. Just 44-years old and one of the greatest guys. I wheeled around the house Friday and Saturday in a stupor. All I wanted to do was sleep. I got up Sunday morning, went into my office, shut the door, called his cell phone and heard his voicemail one more time. Then I picked up my guitar and wrote this song." "I've had some loss in my life, of course my dad, but that's different," Keith continues. "I've lost some friends and acquaintances along the way, but this one for some reason was very difficult for me. The funeral was the next Wednesday and I wrote this for it, but I could not get through it. I ended up doing Willie's 'Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground' because I wasn't attached to that. It was weeks before I could make it all the way through the song. It was tough on me." Keith met sax player Dave Koz, bass player Marcus Miller and percussionist Arthur Thompson at the funeral, and they agreed to play on the track for the album. "I brought my buddy Mark Wright to produce it because I didn't know who was going to play on it after we had it tracked." Keith produced the rest of American Ride, as he's done with all of his albums since 2006. "This album is just another example of exactly what I do," Keith says, "The Wayman song has a jazz vibe to it and is a bit of a step out. 'Balad' is another bus song, and I haven't put one of those on an album in a few years. And the blues song 'Tryin'' is different for me. But I don't set out to do certain things with an album; however and whenever the inspiration strikes, I just go with it." And as Toby Keith goes, so goes country music. At least since 1993. He's sold more than 30 million albums, been among the top all-genre touring artists for a decade and his songs have been honored by BMI for 63 million broadcast performances and counting. He notes, "That's the one number of them all that gets me." Toby Keith is country music's most durable current hitmaker, and you can count it like clockwork. "I don't have to pinch myself, I know how hard I work," he says of the success. "And I expect when you work hard you'll have results." And these results speak for themselves.