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The tragic “Where You Gonna Go” may make “ramblin’ men” think twice about loving and leaving. Keith won’t let a Dear John letter get the best of him (“Big Blue Note”). On “Your Smile” he tells a downcast friend, “Take that frown, turn it upside down/’Cause you never know who might be fallin’ in love with your smile.” A guy on the rebound decides he can’t, in good conscience, keep stringing along the woman who has become his safety net (“You Caught Me at a Bad Time”).
Songs such as “Honkytonk U” pay tribute to empty longnecks and sawdust floors. Alcohol also factors into “You Ain’t Leavin’ (Thank God Are Ya)” (“I’ll have a hot tub full of hotties icin’ down a 24 pack”) and the Merle Haggard duet “She Ain’t Hooked on Me No More.” The latter finds the singer falling off the wagon, ready to drown his sorrows in cigarettes and Jack Daniels. With macho swagger, Keith bids good riddance to departing females (“Knock Yourself Out,” “She Left Me”)—even when he’s clearly in the wrong (on “You Ain’t Leavin’” an adulterer says, “This’ll make my girlfriend happy”). Proud of his drinking and gambling, an aging guy fancies himself a lover and fighter who hasn’t lost his youthful passion (“As Good as I Once Was”).
This is Keith’s paean to restless machismo and life on the wrong side of the tracks. Don’t let teens attend Honkytonk University, a party school with majors in alcoholic excess and sexual immorality.
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No. 1 country disc peaked at 2 on the pop chart. “As Good as I Once Was” was a Top-10 country hit.
Tom Neven Bob Smithouser