In this week's Village Voice, Chuck Eddy offers a spirited revisionist defense of the much-maligned (by liberals, anyway) country star Toby Keith. As you might recall, Keith topped the charts in 2002 with "Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue," a patriotic ditty that promised terrorists and other malfeasants, "we'll put a boot in your ass, it's the American way." While I can't say that I've ever cared for Keith's music, his feud with the self-important Dixie Chicks was fun to watch. And as reason contributing editor Charles Oliver noticed back in 2003, the famously pugnacious Keith was an Iraq War skeptic from the start.
Here's Eddy on why Keith is more than just a right-wing shock jock:
That handful of songs (a couple of which appeared on a surprisingly funky 2003 album entitled Shock'n Y'All, har har) is pretty much where Toby's editorializing ends, at least on record. His output is no more limited by his war-machine anthem than Merle Haggard's was by the comparably opportunistic "Okie From Muskogee" and "The Fightin' Side of Me" when Nixon was president. And not many country artists since Merle have managed a creative streak like Toby's these past few years-in fact, to my ears, his '00s output (six albums plus change, including half of 2006's Broken Bridges soundtrack and a few spare tracks collected on his new 35 Biggest Hits) just might stand up to anybody else's this decade, in any musical genre.
That's a bold statement. But the comparison to Hag makes sense. Read the rest of Eddy's article here. For the definitive take on the tangled politics of country music, however, look no further than reason's own Jesse Walker.