Welcome back to Ricky Automatic’s Country Fridays, an idea I stole from my good friend Cameron McCormick. From here on out we are just going to use the acronym “RACF.” 

Every critic of contemporary radio country knocks the genre for the same reason: “they always sing about the same ole shit.” It’s a dumb argument.

I would be decidedly less poor f I had a nickel for every time I’d heard that extremely unfunny joke, “What do you get when you rewind a country song? Well, your wife back, your dog back and your truck starts.” While the naysayers who make such claims are not exactly mislead, they miss the larger point: our lives are repetition. We like comfort food, routines, familiarity. Radio country represents something from which we know exactly what to expect. What makes it interesting is that they keep reinventing new and clever ways to tell a story that they’ve already told.

Look, it isn’t like George, Hank, Waylon, and Johnny Cash were writing songs with disparate themes. They liked boozing, they liked womanizing, they liked honky-tonking. And while they probably lived those lives in a way that modern country singers cannot — due to the ever-increasing media interest and branding of these pop stars — the newer guys and gals have carried out those themes in their own music because that’s what they grew up listening to. Furthermore, I’ll let you in on a little secret: I grew up in the country. I may be a gun-fearing liberal, but I relate to much of the ideology in country music, old and new. I love driving down a back road. The city scares the shit out of me. Everybody in my town is going to die famous. It aint the worst way to live.

But sometimes there is an undeniable truth to the cliche that all country songs sound the same. Sometimes these artists see just how far they cannot push the envelope before people start to notice. And I noticed, Toby Keith and Rhett Atkins. I noticed that you guys performed the same song, one year apart. And like the joke that the haters like to tell, your songs involve losing your girl, your truck, and other shit that you value as a country boy.

Without further ado, Toby Keith banged out this jam in 1994, titled “Who’s That Man?” As you’ll see, it’s kind of a rhetorical question. “That Man” is his wife’s new lover, and his kids’ new stepfather:


Let’s be honest, guys: that track is a banger. But it aint half the man that was Rhett Atkins’ 1995 hit, “That Aint My Truck.”  In fact, you’ll notice this track — like the new men that walk into the picture in both of the narratives — bangs harder, better, faster, stronger:

Man, this aint my day tonight” is an exhibition in brilliant country lines that don’t actually make sense.

That’s my girl, my whole world, but that aint my truck.” Just heartbreaking stuff.

You might also notice, as I did, a theme in the two separate songs: a dude has gotten the short end of the stick, and another dude has taken over his life. There is no admission of guilt, wrong-doing, or fault by the respective male narrators: they are victims suffering from bad luck.

It’s as though they are both saying, “Didn’t do nothin’ wrong, she just done ran out and found another guy, because that’s just how those things happen in mid-90s country jams. Goddamn women. Can’t trust ’em!”

I also think we need to pay special attention to the wonderful FOOTBALL shots in the Rhett Atkins video:

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Oh, god these songs are the best. But they are also the same. The music videos? Step your game up, Toby. I wanna see way, way more football next time.

Happy Country Friday.