The title track to Toby Keith's 'Hope on the Rocks' album shows the singer's genuine understanding of the nuanced relationships between bartenders and their regulars. But it's not just barkeeps that will relate to the ballad. Servers, liquor store clerks, the dry cleaner, radio DJs... anyone who provides a service and a set of open ears will appreciate his story.

Keith captures the way men and women down on their luck float in and out of these relationships with no formal goodbye or hello. Someone like "Sissy" just sort of disappears. It's a strange fact of life.

"Then it rained so hard that Mary tried / To take her life with suicide / And disappear just like the thunder / You ask around and no one knows / Where they went or what they do / But you wonder, I know you wonder," Keith sings in 'Hope on the Rocks,' building toward a cathartic chorus.

In the song, they all stop at the bar for a few or a few dozen drinks to sort out their troubles before moving on. "Where do they go / They come here / To drown in their sorrow and cry in their beer / They’re in need of a mind bender / I’m a bartender / At the end of the day / I’m all they've got / Hope on the rocks."

'Hope on the Rocks' is the best song on Keith's new album. In just a few lines, the loved singer shows how capable he is of capturing the country nation's emotions in a story that's just far enough removed from reality to still be enjoyable.

"Upside down and couldn't pay / They hauled Sue's mobile home away / And we ain’t seen her since," he sings during the second verse. This tune proves Keith is still as good once as he ever was.

4 Stars

Listen to Toby Keith, 'Hope on the Rocks'

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