If one just listens to the radio, rather than actively following a particular style of music, it can come as a surprise to later discover the extent of a particular artist’s material. For example, a casual pop listener examining Billy Joel’s catalogue for the first time would no doubt be exclaiming, “He sang that? And that? And THAT, TOO??” In the country music category, a rundown of Toby Keith’s singles engenders such a response.

Should’ve Been A Cowboy, Wish I Didn’t Know Now, Who’s That Man, You Ain’t Much Fun, Who’s Your Daddy?, He Ain’t Worth Missing, I Wanna Talk About Me, My List, You Shouldn’t Kiss Me Like This, Me Too, the list of hits rolls on like a convoy of eighteen-wheelers. Take away Toby Keith, and country playlists would have an awful lot of gaps. The reason is that Keith’s songs are lively, melodic, lyrically witty, emotionally honest, and straightforwardly sung… in short, the very essence of country music.

Ironically, though, Keith did not attain coveted crossover status until his fervently patriotic Courtesy of the Red, White & Blue (The Angry American) struck a chord with a nation stunned and enraged by the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Suddenly, the “boot in the ass guy” was recognized everywhere. He struck the chord again in 2003 when he and Willie Nelson saddled up their boys and drew “a hard line” with their duet Beer for My Horses, and yet again in ’04, with American Soldier, proving repeatedly that the views of the so-called Hollywood Left are far from unanimous in the court of public opinion. Politics aside, though, his next two hits, I Love This Bar and Whiskey Girl, charted just as high or higher on the Billboard Hot 100. Whatever the party line, Toby Keith has unquestionably made it.