Rowdy Crowd

Veterans weekend in Laughlin will be unlike any other in the country when Toby Keith and his special guest Colt Ford join forces on the Laughlin Event Center stage Saturday, Nov. 9. Think patriotism in 4D surround sound.
Both Keith and Ford can incite patriotism, served with a little power drinking and a whole lot of fun. They can deliver kiss my backside songs with passion and defiance, and ballads that hint at their romantic sides.
Keith has sold millions of albums and earned dozens of awards doing just that during his extensive career. The award-winning singer-songwriter is constantly writing songs, he always has. It is part and parcel to who he is.
This time he hits town with his latest album release, Toby Keith Greatest Hits: The Show Dog Years. The collection was just released Friday, Oct. 25. His lead single, “That’s Country, Bro!” is also the name of the tour he brings to town.
The album celebrates Keith’s 2005 launch of his own record label, the final step in his own journey to complete musical freedom, taking over creative control of all of his music. Tracks include “Don’t Let The Old Man In” (from the soundtrack of the Clint Eastwood film, “The Mule”), to “Back In The 405,” a co-write with buddy Colt Ford. The remaining cuts include some of the biggest hits of his career.
“Well, folks, here it is,” he writes in the liner notes. “The Show Dog Year’s biggest hits. I know it’s long overdue, but we put them all in one big pile. Twenty-five years went by fast, but I’m very blessed to have this wonderful career. Still kickin’ it, too. See ya out there on the road.”
No doubt many of those hits will be making the cut Saturday night in Laughlin — so red Solo cups should be raised and ready to be emptied.
“When you come to the show with us, it will be rockin’ and kickin’ ass and pro for our country and our soldiers, and policemen and firemen, that’s very much who we are,” Ford told the Laughlin entertainer about their upcoming concert together.
“I’m excited to be there again. The chance to play with Toby is always fun, we played there before, so it rocks there. The people there will be rockin’ and we’ll be right in the middle of it. I can’t wait.”
Keith and Ford have been playing shows together for a while now, so it only stands to reason the two will do a few songs together.
“Well, we’re both fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants kind of guys but I promise you we will probably end up on stage together. There really hasn’t been one where we haven’t, know what I mean?” he said. “We don’t really plan anything. It’s just like, ‘what do you want to do,’ ‘I don’t know, let’s do this,’ then we just go out there and have fun.
“He’s so friggin’ good it’s unbelievable,” he added. “To me, in a lot of ways he doesn’t get the credit he deserves for how good he is and how good he is live and his songs…he’s just great. And he’s been real good to me.”
“The Angry American (Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue)” would be the perfect choice for the duo to perform together.
“We normally do that one,” he said. “We also did a song together on my last record before this new one came out, called ‘Time Flies When You’re Having Rum’ and we normally get up there and play that one together, for sure. We do the fun stuff, and just have fun.”
For those who don’t know, Colt Ford is all about keeping it real and never forgetting who he is as a human and as a country music artist. For a guy who’s been pulling himself up by his own bootstraps from the very beginning, Ford has cut a swarthy path and carved out a place for himself in this crazy, unforgiving business over the last 12 years.
He took heat from the get-go for fusing rap into his brand of country music because in his quest to do something different, some folks weren’t sure about his dedication to the country genre. But, as he explains, his style is really a nod to artists back in the day who were the first to talk their way through country songs. He sees his approach as taking a step forward and a step back at the same time to create songs people can’t help but like. It could be Ford believes in sticking to his guns about making music people can not only relate to but raise a glass of beer to while having a little fun.
As a result, the Georgia native has been gathering steam as both a songwriter and a recording artist in his own right. Ford co-wrote Jason Aldean’s No. 1 hit, “Dirt Road Anthem,” and Brantley Gilbert’s No. 1, “Country Must Be Country Wide.” He has over a million Facebook friends, 350K Twitter followers, 154K Instagram followers, and has sold more than a million albums and millions of downloads.
His seventh album, We The People, was just released Sept. 20 and features some fellow artists on some of the cuts. The first single, “Slow Ride,” with Mitchell Tenpenny is making its way to radio stations nationwide. The album is a reflection of Ford’s life and way of thinking right now.
“For me, I’m kind of in the moment with how I’m feeling and what I’m doing with music, it shows up a lot in what I’m doing or what I’m writing,” he explained. “But as a whole I just think this is the best record I’ve made sonically. With what I’m doing musically, I just think it’s one of the better things I’ve done — which is exciting to go seven albums in and I still feel like I’m always getting better.
“There’s some cool people on here, some people I haven’t worked with, some new artists, and then some people I have worked with before like Eddie Montgomery from Montgomery Gentry, he’s on here. And I got Walker Montgomery, which is John Michael Montgomery’s son — Eddie’s his uncle — and he’s just coming into his own as an artist. It’s really cool the way this record sounds and I almost got Volume 2 done.”
Ford’s new single “Slow Ride” with Mitchell Tenpenny is a tip of the hat to both his tried and true style and his evolution as an artist.
“I haven’t made songs like that in quite a while because I’ve been so busy trying to push myself as an artist,” he said. “I don’t want to forget who I am and how I got there, but I want to evolve and get better. I didn’t do many songs like this before, but I’m trying to add color to my pallet, or whatever, and it’s been fun to do that, while it’s exciting to maintain the integrity of who I am.
“That’s also very important to me, too, because there’s a bunch of fans who believed long before other people did. I want to give them what they like. That song with Mitchell, ‘Slow Ride,’ I did a couple of songs on there like that, with way more fast-driven lyrics, fast recitation or “rappy” vibe and a lot more automated sounds — and people seem to love when I do that, which is cool to see that reaction.”
With the perception and perspective changing people’s thoughts on his music, it seems like that business of “ruining” country music is at an end. Instead he’s simply added a different layer and a different voice.
“I got some of that ‘ruining country’ business early on,” he said. “If you know the history of music, especially country music, if you start talking about recitation and records and stuff, it’s like this was around before the term “rap” was even invented. ‘Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette,’ ‘Hot Rod Lincoln,’ what do you think those guys were doing? What do you call Jerry Reid? What do you call a lot of Charlie Daniels’ stuff? What do you call Toby Keith’s ‘Let’s Talk About Me?’ It’s just talking recitation and oh, by the way, the words rhyme because we’re making songs — that’s what we do. It kind of baffles me sometimes,” he laughs. “Before, I wasn’t trying to be a country rapper, and still to this day I consider myself just a country artist.
“I’m still making music, and I’m still selling a bunch of tickets, I’ve evolved as an artist, I’ve got a bunch of different stuff. Oddly enough, on my last record, I put out a song called ‘Four Lane Gone.’ It was the first single, a straight-up, right-down-the-middle country mainstream mid-tempo love song, with me singing all by myself,” he said. “I know I ain’t nowhere near the best singer, but I’ve kind of figured out where I’m comfortable at with the right songs that fit my voice. There’s so many artists in town but if one of them had put this song out it would have been a three- or four-week No. 1.
“But I got radio going, ‘Why aren’t you doing what you normally do?’ It’s like, ‘Holy sh–, you wouldn’t play me ’cause I rap, and now I give you singing and you ask me why I’m not rapping. Are y’all messin’ with me or what?’ I’m just trying to give ’em the best songs I can and at the end of the day that’s all I’m ever gonna do.
“The music has to be perfect for me whether it gets played on radio or not,” he added. “But I know what my fans like, so I’m gonna try to give them the best songs I can give ’em every single time. I don’t care who wrote ’em, I don’t care where they’re from, I just want to give ’em the best stuff.”
Ford must be doing something right. His first album, Ride Through The Country, released more than 10 years ago just achieved gold status and he was surprised at the Grand Ole Opry with Jamey Johnson presenting the award.
“I’d made up my mind I would probably, after almost 12 years, never get to play the Opry,” he said. “I’d made my peace with it — I’d love to do it, it would be a huge honor, but I’ve had a great career, I’ve done great, if it doesn’t happen, you know?
Then all of a sudden the opportunity came along and I started going, ‘I don’t know if I want to do it and I’m not sure if I should do it.’
“I’ve always been confident in myself,” Ford added. “You give me an hour to play and there’s some people in here that maybe didn’t’ know me or thought they weren’t fans and I can turn ’em, because we’re good live — I’m not saying they’ll go buy every record, but they’ll go, ‘he meant what he was doing,’ or ‘it was genuine,’ which is all you can ask.
“At the Opry I’m like, ‘I’ve only got 12 minutes to turn ’em here.’ I did my three songs, and it ended with a friggin’ standing ovation. Most people think of me as the tough redneck — I’m all that, but I’m an emotional dude, and all I could do was just cry. I was overwhelmed by that response, and then when Jamey walked out — I heard him talking on a screen, I thought they were playing a video. Jamey was the first person I did a song with in Nashville. We’ve been close friends ever since, and it was a pretty special moment. I was just overwhelmed being there. It was more than I thought it would be.”
And these days he also keeps good company by touring the country with Toby Keith, which he sees as a huge opportunity.
“In a lot of ways, I’m new to a lot of people,” he said. “It’s like when you have a chance to go out and play shows with somebody like Toby, who’s got 25+ years of busting his ass to earn these fans, I look at it like, ‘the guy’s giving me an unbelievable gift of these fans that he’s worked his ass off to get and you have a chance to make ’em your fans, if you go out there and do it right.’ So that ‘s how I approach playing with him.
“Here’s my chance to play in front of some new people and hopefully kick ass and make ’em be a fan of mine.
Toby has been really good to me, and really mentored me in a lot of ways, which to me, as a veteran artist, I think you should do stuff like that,” Ford added. “Some artists get it, some don’t. He definitely gets it. Now if you come with an ego and attitude, then he don’t have much time for that.
“He’s just been unbelievable to me. I can’t thank him enough. That advice from a guy who’s done what he’s done, you can’t really put a price tag on something like that.”
Seats at the Laughlin Event Center might need to be reconfigured to include seatbelts for this show, but then again, it doesn’t look like people will be sitting much. With these two rowdy guys leading the charge, fans might want to suit up for one hell of a night of explosive American music, flag-waving and an abundance of red Solo cups filled to the brim.


TOBY KEITH with COLT FORD

Laughlin Event Center

Saturday, Nov. 9 (8 p.m.)

See “Showtimes” for ticket info