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'Keep 'Em On They Toes' Review: Brent Cobb's 4th album is a lovely addition to the treasure trove of country music

The strength of Brent Cobb's most innovative studio album lies in the fact that it's beautifully underplayed
Brent Cobb (Ol' Buddy Records And Thirty Tigers)
Brent Cobb (Ol' Buddy Records And Thirty Tigers)

The strength of Brent Cobb's latest offering, his fourth studio album 'Keep 'Em On They Toes', lies in the fact that it's beautifully underplayed. Not even once does the country record sound over-the-top or sonically overreaching. The very first song on the album, which happens to be the title track, sets the mood for the rest of the largely acoustic record. The track 'Keep 'Em On They Toes', just like the name suggests, is about being fiercely independent and letting everyone around you play guessing games about what your next move might be. A quintessential country track, it sounds fun and uplifting despite the underlying morose tone. Cobb sings about carving one's own path in life on a track that's a little over two minutes in length.

'Keep 'Em On They Toes' album cover (Ol' Buddy Records and Thirty Tigers)

The following track, 'Shut Up and Sing', is much longer – four minutes and forty-five seconds to be exact – and is also an acoustic offering with a delicate, endearing bass-line. Cobb's soothing vocal performance induces a feeling of calmness while reminding the listener of the good ol' charm of country music. Cobb's songwriting, where he sings about leaving one's worries behind, is only elevated by the honey-tinged harmonica solos. On the third track 'Good Times And Good Love', Cobb sings about coming to terms with the passage of time turning existential crisis into something no-so-bad with the help of his relaxing voice as he croons "good times and good love don't last forever".

This sentiment is maintained, in one way or another, throughout the album. On 'Sometimes I'm a Clown', Cobb sings about being young, in love, and broke while going through the motions of life. The mellow acoustic guitar in the background only adds to the track's mood and, gradually, gives way to the catchiest song on the record; 'This Side of the River'. Over four minutes in length, 'This Side of the River' is the best example of Cobb's contemplative songwriting. His reflections on life is worth pondering over and he ruminates about his childhood. The track eventually transcends with the help of a soft, comforting guitar solo.

Brent Cobb (Ol' Buddy Records and Thirty Tigers)

This is followed by 'Dust Under My Rug', which starts off with a lively drum beat. A song you can picture being played in a scene in a movie based in the South with people dancing to it at a party, 'Dust Under My Rug' emanates serious old-school country music vibes as Cobb sings 'don't sweep your dust under my rug' again and again. 'Soapbox', the track that follows, displays the 34-year-old singer's humorous lyrical skills as he perfectly sings about being far away from understanding worldly and political issues. He's just a guy with a guitar and some tunes. The playful piano section on 'Soapbox' is alleviated by the backing female vocals beautifully.

The eighth and ninth track – 'When You Go' and 'The World is Ending' – both feature the best vocal work on 'Keep 'Em On They Toes'. Prophetic in nature, Cobb's trembling voice is faultlessly accompanied by minimal yet arresting notes. On the aptly titled 'The World is Ending', Cobb sings about the metaphorical destruction of our Sun making the song perfect for these strange times. 'The World is Ending' is, without doubt, the best track on the record. The final track on 'Keep 'Em On They Toes', titled 'Little Stuff', is a little over three minutes in length and is fleeting in nature. A flawless closer to a subtle, subdued and well-crafted record, 'Keep 'Em On They Toes' is not once overpowering making it a wonderful addition to 2020's cherished country music treasure trove.