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CD Reviews:
Listening Room: Toby Keith, Queens of the Stone Age and more...

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Sunday, June 10, 2007

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Toby Keith, “Big Dog Daddy” (Show Dog Nashville) ***

His flag-waving 2002 hit “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)” made him a polarizing presence for perhaps the rest of his career. But the fact remains that Toby Keith is not just a hot country music commodity, he’s also a potent triple-threat artist — singer, songwriter and, on his 12th studio album, producer. It turns out that Keith’s sonic vision for his music is as sharp as his clever songwriting acumen, blending a biting guitar attack on the mostly uptempo “Big Dog Daddy” with a bed of acoustic instruments such as mandolin, dobro and fiddle for his richest and most muscular effort yet. “High Maintenance Woman” kicks things off in a rockin’ country vein, with sly double entendres laced throughout the song. “Got My Drink On,” “Pump Jack” and the grooving “Hit It” also operate in that uptempo arena, while the buoyant kiss-off “Wouldn’t Want to Be Ya” would be at home on a Jimmy Buffett album. Keith is just as solid on quieter fare such as “Walk It Off” and “I Know She Hung the Moon,” and he gives Fred Eaglesmith’s sentimental “White Rose” a fullbodied Americana treatment. Interestingly, it’s another writer — Craig Wiseman — who penned “Love Me If You Can,” a takeme-or-leave-me ode that deftly sums up Keith’s own philosophical temperament with lines like “I stand by my right to speak freely.” It may not make fans of the Dixie Chicks, but “Big Dog Daddy” is another reminder that Keith can bite as well as he barks.


Queens of the Stone Age, “Era Vulgaris” (Interscope) **1/2

On his fifth Queens of the Stone Age album, Josh Homme declares that “I want to see my past in flames” — an accurate summation of the way he’s approached the group since forming it in 1997. Homme and his shifting groups of collaborators have specialized in steering QOTSA in new directions on each album, with fuzzed-out hard rock always at the core but dressed up in different sets of sonic colors and tonal textures. nine inch nails’ Trent Reznor and Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas are among those helping Homme on his “Era Vulgaris” journey, an 11-track set exploring sharp dynamics (“Suture Up Your Future,” “Turnin’ the Screw”) and channeling references to Seattle grunge (“3’s & 7’s”), cosmic blues (“Into the Hollow”), falsetto-flaunting soul (“Make it Wit Chu”) and even molten albumclosing Metallica-meets-Systemof-a-Down crank that closes the album on “Run, Pig, Run.” QOTSA continues to cover lots of ground, which only stokes our anticipation for what Homme and company will do next time out.


Steve Barton & the Oblivion Click, “Flicker of Time” (Sleepless) — Debut album from the new band led by former Translator frontman Barton.

Paula Cole, “Courage”

(Decca) — Those wondering where has Paula Cole gone can welcome her back on her first set of new material in eight years.

DJ Khaled, “We the Best” (Koch) — Akon, T.I., Fat Joe, Paul Wall and a slew of others bring a sense of event to the Miami turntablist’s debut.

DMX, “Definition of X: The Pick of the Litter” (Def Jam) — The New York rapper reviews his first decade with this 20-track best-of collection.

John Doe, “A Year in the Wilderness” (Yep Roc) — The X frontman’s latest solo outing includes guest appearances by Dave Alvin, Aimee Mann, Jill Sobule the sublime Kathleen Edwards and the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach.

Fabolous, “From Nothin’ to Something” (Def Jam) — The Brooklyn rapper’s fourth album, his first in three years, features appearances by Ne-Yo and Young Jezzy.

Fair to Midland, “Fables From a Mayfly: What I Tell You Three Times” (Serjical Strike/Republic) — The hardrocking Dallas quintet is one of System of a Down frontman Serj Tankian’s discoveries.

Great Lakes Myth Society, “Compass Rose Bouquet”

(Quack Media) — The sophomore album from the much buzzedabout southeastern Michigan roots rockers.

Enrique Iglesias, “Insomniac” (Interscope) — The most famous Son of Julio ends a four-year recording hiatus, bouncing back with the single “Do You Know (The Ping Pong Song).”

Gerald and Eddie LeVert, “Something to Talk About”

(Atlantic) — The Bonnie Raitt hit provides the title track for this set of duets, which comes seven months after Gerald’s death.

O’Death, “Head Home” (Ernest Jenning) — What sounds like a heavy metal band is actually a roots troupe that brings a bit of punk rock sensibility to its spirited hootenanny.

Mark Olson, “Salvation Blues” (Hacktone) — The singersongwriter’s latest solo outing includes three songs with his former Jayhawks partner, Gary Louris.

Spyro Gyra, “Good to Go”

(Heads Up) — The long-lived jazz troupe welcomes new percussionist Bonny B to the lineup on its latest release.

The Traveling Wilburys, “The Traveling Wilburys Collection” (Rhino) — The rock supergroup’s out-of-print catalog returns with a completist’s package that includes bonus tracks and a DVD.

Various Artists, “Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur” (Warner Bros.) — Pop, rock and country luminaries such as U2, Green Day, Avril Lavigne, R.E.M., Big & Rich and more cover John Lennon songs for this relief effort.

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