Toby Keith – “Bullets In the Gun”

Juli Thanki | October 8th, 2010

Toby KeithToby Keith’s recent singles have been something of a tossup. For every quality song like the genuinely moving, genre-blending “Cryin’ for Me (Wayman’s Song),” there’s a not-so-great song such as “Every Dog Has Its Day.” The title track and second single of Keith’s newest album is more closely aligned with the former.

“Bullets in the Gun” is a bombastic song delivered with nearly tangible bravado, and there’s nobody on the radio right now who does bombast or bravado better than Keith. He takes the role of a nameless loner who happens upon an exotic dancer in a border town bar. The situation soon ignites, and the two are headed for Mexico on his bike accompanied by a pistol and a giant sack o’ money. Things don’t get any better when they awake in a seedy motel surrounded by Federales. Though the story reaches its obvious and inevitable bullet-riddled end, it’s still very easy to get caught up in the story and Keith’s delivery. And dangit, it’s nice to hear a single with a little bit of guts in between so much drippy radio fodder.

We’ve seen the “barmaid and ne’er-do-well embark on a life of crime” story song before, most notably in the superb “The Road Goes on Forever,” a song to which this one bears remarkable similarity (sing “The road goes on forever/And the party never ends” when Keith’s chorus gets to the lyrics “Now the cards are on the table/And the bullets in the gun.” Pretty close, no?). While “Bullets in the Gun” is nowhere near as good as that song, it’s an enjoyable listen, and a welcome reprieve from the album’s subpar leadoff single “Trailerhood.” Most importantly, it serves as a reminder that when Keith is working with decent material, he’s one of the most talented men in mainstream country music.

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  1. Stormy
    October 8, 2010 at 11:58 am

    Not to mention that in REK’s “Road” “the cards were on the table when the law came bustin’ in.”

  2. luckyoldsun
    October 8, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    There are several lines that seem to be “inspired” by REK.
    In “The Road”, Sonny “dropped a dollar in her tip jar;” In “Bullets,” Toby “dropped a dollar in the jukebox.”
    In both songs, when the deal goes bad and the cops come in, the desperadoes try to escape “out the back.”

    A lot of people, including Johnny Cash, have borrowed/adapted/stolen (pick your word)songs. Toby should just acknowledge REK–or maybe ask HIM to co-write with Toby for Toby’s next album, so REK could at least make some money out of it.

  3. Stormy
    October 8, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    Eh, at least his attempt to re-write The Road Goes on Forever and the Party Never Ends works better than Kenny Chesney’s attempt to re-write “Chisled In Stone.”

  4. Leeann Ward
    October 8, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    Yeah, I totally noticed the similarities between the two songs as well. I’m not loving it so far, but I don’t really like the REK song either. I agree that it’s a nice change from the “drippy radio fodder” though.

  5. Drew
    October 8, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    I hope he releases “In A Couple Of Days” as a single off this album… best ballad I’ve heard from Toby in awhile.

  6. Fizz
    October 8, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    Even I picked up on the obvious rip-off of “Road Goes On Forever.” Too bad, as, like the review states, it’s a break from the usual pussy-whipped male-warbled country song.

  7. idlewildsouth
    October 8, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    Where else would bad guys go if the cops were coming in the front door? They certainly aren’t going to go through the walls.

  8. Mike Wimmer
    October 8, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    It’s no “The Road Goes On Forever”, but few songs are. I still enjoy this song, granted it’s one of the few that I really liked off his new album, but it’s MUCH better than most of the songs on radio right now.

  9. Rick
    October 8, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    Speaking of song similarities, the basic structure of “Trailerhood” reminds me quite a bit of the Gene Watson song “Ain’t No Fun To Be Alone in San Antone” (written by Buddy Cannon & Luke Reed). That song was a highlight on Gene’s 1988 release “Back In The Fire”.

    If Toby is copying songs, then at least he’s picking good songs to “revise” slightly! Besides, what percentage of current Top 40 AirHead Country Radio listeners have ever heard of Robert Earl Keen or Gene Watson? Katy Perry, Lady GaGa, and Colbie Caillat absolutely, but REK and Gene Watson, no…

  10. Stephen H.
    October 8, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    Toby’s always been good at lifting ideas from other songs. Taking a title from a Josh Turner album cut; taking the premise of “High Maintenance Woman” from a similar song (can’t remember which, but it’s from an indie artist); taking “It’s a little too late/She’s a little too gone” from Mark Chesnutt and switching the pronoun, etc. I like most of his songs enough, but sometimes it creates a little bit of a deja vu feeling.

  11. Vicki
    October 8, 2010 at 10:15 pm

    This is one of his best albums. You can listen to all of them here:

  12. Bobby P.
    October 8, 2010 at 11:49 pm

    Stephen — “High Maintenance Woman” was the title of a Tim Wilson song. He gave Tim Wilson and Danny Simpson co-writer’s credit on his since both had a similar hook about high maintenance woman/maintenance man.

    I don’t see anything wrong with songs having similar ideas/hooks/melodies etc. unless it’s really, really blatant. I can’t offhand think of any that were really egregious. But “A Little Too Late” is NOT one of them; neither the Tanya Tucker nor Mark Chesnutt songs of the same title are even close in melody, production, etc.

  13. WAYNOE
    October 9, 2010 at 8:46 am

    Many songs have simialr melodies. There are only so many chords, progressions, and arrangements. Some are more obvious than others, but nothing new under the sun.

  14. Landon
    October 9, 2010 at 9:46 am

    Toby’s “Get Drunk and be somebody” is also very close in title to Merle’s “Drink up and be Somebody”. Merle is one of Toby’s biggest influences, though, and I’m sure he wasn’t trying to steal from Merle per se.

  15. luckyoldsun
    October 9, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    “The Road Goes On Forever” has “been around”–It was recorded by Joe Ely and was the centerpiece/title cut of the Highwaymen’s last album. Toby clearly borrowed from it heavily. The story lines involving a waitress and a drifter and shootout are very similar and the phrases “had a reputation,” “dropped a dollar,” “the cards were on the table” and “out the back” all come from the earlier song.

    I like Toby’s album a lot. I just think that given how successful he is and how much money he makes, it’s a bit uncool that Toby doesn’t even acknowledge REK when talking about his influences (like John Prine).

  16. idlewildsouth
    October 9, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    I don’t know that those examples are unique enough to say they were lifted from REK’s song. There are plenty of other songs where the outlaw meets a a girl in some sort of establishment (“El Paso”, “Modern Day Bonnie and Clyde”). “The cards were on the table” is literal in REK’s song, figurative in Toby’s.

    I just don’t see that, given the theme of the song (that obviously Keen did not originate) these are fairly typical lines that would be in the song. Were they clever turns of phrase, that would be one thing. But what else would you do if you wanted to see a dancer dance but put money in the jukebox? And again, if the laws coming in the front door, it only makes sense to go out the back door.

  17. Becky
    October 9, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    When I heard this new Toby song I got ticked! “The Road Goes On Forever” is one of my favorite songs of all time and it sounds just like it! I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought this…

  18. Stephen H.
    October 9, 2010 at 10:37 pm

    Bobby, “A Little Too Late” may not take anything melodically, content-wise, or production-wise from the Mark Chesnutt song, but he lifted an entire line from the song. I don’t see “It’s a little too late. [Noun is] a little too gone.” being a common phrase. That’s all I’m getting at with that one.

    Good to hear about the co-write for “High Maintenance Woman,” I had missed that.

    And this doesn’t change how I do like most of the songs that he releases (“A Little Too Late” is actually one of my favorite songs of his, other than that line), including this one.

  19. Paul W Dennis
    October 10, 2010 at 9:01 am

    This is a pretty good song – as noted above, Toby’s records are up-and-down, but he always sings well and can sell even subpar material

  20. Joseph
    October 10, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    I definitely agree that this one is better than his last couple of singles (“Trailerhood” and “Every Dog Has It’s Day). However, I too noticed the major similarity between this and “The Road Goes On Forever” except REK’s is much better than “Bullets In The Gun.”

    Good review and I agree that overall it’s a better Toby-song than some of the other recent duds he has released!

  21. Regina George
    December 9, 2010 at 10:54 am

    Boring, over done. This reminds me a whole lot of 7 other of Toby’s songs. I prefer “Beer for my Horses” and “Crime of a Creole Woman.” Still love ya, Toby! try harder. I just wish he would stop released 10 albums a year so i could keep up.

  22. kayla
    February 12, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    I think toby keith bullets in the gun is so awsome I really wat to meet him

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