Toby Keith and drinking songs go together like rum and Coke. The voice behind hits like “Red Solo Cup,” “Beer for My Horses,” “Drinks After Work,” “Get Drunk and Be Somebody” and, of course, “I Love This Bar” knows his way to the high, and low, places booze can take you.
But his new single “Drunk Americans,” the first from his forthcoming album, puts a fresh twist on an old musical cocktail with a shot of social commentary. This may surprise those who still view the singer though a right-wing lens, no matter how many times he has rejected that label.
With lyrics like “We ain’t black, we ain’t white, we ain’t left, we ain’t right, we just came here to drink” and “We just raise up our glass, we don’t give a rat’s ass if you’re a Democrat or a Republican,” “Drunk Americans”celebrates the way a little social lubricant can be a uniter not a divider.
“We wanted to write it sort of like a modern day ‘Piano Man,'” says Brandy Clark, who co-wrote the track — which you can hear below — with Shane McAnally and Bob DiPiero. “It’s like ‘When we’re in here drinking, who cares what we are outside of this?'”
Among her favorite lyrics are “in these neon lights we’re all stars, we’re all stripes” and “we’re all ball caps and turbans.” “It’s very inclusive,” says Clark, who has previously co-written such hits as Kacey Musgraves’ “Follow Your Arrow” and Miranda Lambert’s “Mama’s Broken Heart.” She also received widespread critical acclaim for her own 2013 debut, 12 Stories, and recently nabbed CMA nominations for New Artist, and Song of the Year for “Arrow.”
Of “Drunk Americans” she says, “You see that title and you think, ‘Oh, it’s a drinking song,’ which it is, but I hope that people can listen to it and see that it’s really an American song.”
Clark was excited when she heard Keith was going to cut the tune, especially given his history with it.
“When we finished the song [two years ago] we said, ‘This would we be so great for Toby Keith.’ And then he passed on it,” says Clark with a laugh. “Then he came back around to make another record and the guy at my publishing company pitched it again — after the record was done — and they heard it and said, ‘Oh, he’s got to go in and do this.’ So he did it and now it’s the single! I’ve loved Toby Keith for a long time so I can’t wait to hear this.”
Given the reports of rowdy, drunken and sometimes criminal behavior at some country music shows this past summer, Clark hopes the song isn’t pre-judged as promoting that idea, but understands that it’s a topic of discussion. “I hope it helps, not hurts,” she says.
Following a show at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville this past Friday opening for her idol Loretta Lynn — “a total dream come true” — Clark hits the road as a warm- up act for Eric Church on his Outsiders Tour beginning October 16th in Charlottesville, Virginia.