Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Toby Keith: Unleashed [DreamWorks, 2002]
With America lighting up one too many places like the Fourth of July, I went back and tried to hate "Courtesy of the Red White and Blue" like I oughta, but it was still too pithy and heartfelt, and the album still gave up a colloquial aptness and easy masculinity I'd overlooked. But obscured by the uproar is a piece of work as immoral as "One in a Million" or "Black Korea"--no, worse. I can forgive duet partner Willie Nelson almost anything, but I'm appalled that he lent his good name to "Beer for My Horses," which not only naturalizes lynching but makes it seem like fun on a Friday night. True, the horses the mob rides evoke Hollywood westerns. Right, there is "too much corruption," though somebody should tell these yokels that "crime in the streets" dropped in the good old days when we had an economy. But the racial coding of the "gangsters" the song sends to their maker needs no explanation. And those "evil forces" who "blow up a building" ain't bomber pilots, now are they? B/E