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No. 657: Pouring One Out for Toby Keith

No. 657: Pouring One Out for Toby Keith

📅 Today, Davis eulogizes Toby Keith and Megan reports on the governor's State of the State address last night.

Good afternoon, everyone.

Toby Keith passed away early this morning after fighting stomach cancer for almost two years. One of the great songsmiths of 2000s country, his music likely made its way into your life whether you wanted it to or not. 

An incident from almost ten years ago typifies this kind of encounter: I was floating on the Shenandoah River with friends. Our nice, quiet tour of the valley was suddenly punctuated as we rounded a corner to a group of round-bellied, drunk revelers waddling in the middle of the river like cattle, bellowing 'Red Solo Cup' at the top of their lungs while waving a few above their heads. The local flora and fauna.

When I talk about the intrusions Keith's music made, this is what I mean. When a Toby Keith song came on the radio, it was like he’d kicked down your front door just to get your attention. His music expressed a bold American swagger that came naturally to the country as it mounted the Global War on Terror. 

In the intervening years, this brash confidence slowly waned and gave way to paralyzing introspection and insecurity. Morgan Wallen, the present King of Country, sings party ballads that lack the bawdy arrogance of Toby Keith and replace it with a more bro-like, hip-hop-adjacent, self-conscious coolness. On the other end of the spectrum, Oliver Anthony's 'Rich Men North of Richmond' hits a more pessimistic register.

What Keith’s music expressed was an earnest, cocksure patriotism, something that’s both fleeting and cherished today. Perhaps his most visible cultural moment came when he penned 'Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)' in the aftermath of 9/11. Just as  Bob Dylan claims to have written the timeless 'Blowin' in the Wind' in ten minutes, Keith claimed he wrote 'The Angry American' in twenty minutes.

It, more than any other song of the period, captures national sentiment following the attacks. Dylan's song gave voice to anti-war and civil rights sentiments of the time, while Keith's vocalized the unified cry of a wounded, angry nation.

Sure, Bob Dylan may have penned something more traditionally enduring and timeless, but for those of us who lived through the 2000s, no other cultural artifact properly captures the era’s unbounded optimism and strength. At that point, the country reveled in unabashed, patriotic pride. With the millennium opening us up to the promise of technology, not unbridled yet by reality, we had a clear enemy on which to project our anger and justification for our confidence. 

The bells chiming in 'The Angry American' remind me of the bells used in place of cannons in some performances of Tchaikovsky's '1812 Overture', celebrating Russia's successful defense of Napoleon's invasion of the country.

For all the crassness critics might associate with the song, it speaks to the soul of every red-blooded American who remembers the unity that followed from the collapsing towers—when, as one Twitter user put it, “rural teenagers who'd never been to NY, never even met anyone from there, left their lives behind to go to war because we got hit.”

Just venture into a Broadway Honky Tonk on a weekend and witness how people react when it's played to see for yourself. One wonders if such unity is possible today. Toby Keith reminds us what it felt like when it was that we might not forget it.

We're pouring one out for the Big Dog today. Rest in peace.




From Megan Podsiedlik

“In 2024, and frankly for the remainder of my time in office, I believe our job is to fortify that which has been built over the years, and to remember the work it took to get here,” opened Governor Lee at last night’s State of the State address. Before delineating his plan to guide the future of Tennessee, the governor also warmly acknowledged the presence of Lt. Governor Randy McNally, who made his first capitol appearance of the year.

Lee stressed the importance of fiscal responsibility, the protection of children, education, rural healthcare, agricultural conservation, and cutting bureaucratic red tape, among other things. Though tension was a bit high during parts of his speech, the governor commanded the room, even taking a break during one of the more disruptive outbursts. “It's a very good time to remind everyone that, as it has been, civility is a strength: it is not a weakness,” Lee stated after a few vocal interruptions from the gallery. 

Later, while speaking about rural healthcare, the governor was interrupted by continuous shouts from above: “Children are dying!” “You don’t care!” A bystander in the left gallery reclaimed the space: "Let the governor speak uninterrupted, please." 

Notably, political hopeful Luis Mata didn’t let a good opportunity go to waste. When the governor was speaking on educational funding, Rep. Mike Sparks’s opponent decided to make his feelings known from his perch in the gallery. “We rank 46th in the state!” Mata shouted. He proceeded to audibly boo during the applause.

As for those notoriously disruptive electeds we’re accustomed to hearing from, their presence was noticeably tame. The only pronounced incident we witnessed happened after the address, when a masked Justin Pearson led a small “Whose house? Our house!” chant while exiting the House floor, pulling down his mask for the supporters and photographers present.


Midway through his speech, the governor broached the topic of school choice. “There are some who will say that parents don't belong in the decision making process about their child's education,” he said, “But our responsibility is to the student and to the family, not to the status quo.” In addition to the expansion of the ESA program, the governor also plans to make an additional investment in the TISA formula this year “to help public schools retain the best and brightest teachers in their individual districts.”

He then acknowledged the presence of Memphis mother Arieale Munson and her two sons, Steven and Nigel. After putting Nigel in a public charter school, Munson, a single mother working two jobs, used the ESA to enroll Steven in St. George's Independent School. “Each student has unique needs,” Lee said, “and when parents have a choice, [a] child’s life is changed forever.” 


Next, the governor touched on an essential part of creating strong Tennessee families: monitoring the effects of social media on young minds. “Depression, anxiety and loneliness [are] all skyrocketing among children,” Lee said, echoing the sentiments of Attorney General Skrmetti, who is currently suing Meta.

Alongside the state legislature, the governor has proposed the Protecting Children from Social Media Act, which “will require social media companies to get parental consent for minors to create their own social media account in Tennessee” and will “empower parents with the tools to help their kids online.” 


“One of our top objectives has been making government work better for the people,” stated the governor. “And in my view, less government is better government.” With that in mind, Lee put forward two key steps in tackling bureaucratic overreach, including an initiative to cut his own powers. “This year, working with the General Assembly, we will bring forward and plan to repeal or streamline nearly 40 percent of all existing rules across the executive branch,” he said, which will equate to about “4,000 rules eliminated or streamlined. I’m proud that this will be one of the largest cuts of red tape, not just in Tennessee history, but for any state anywhere in the country.” 

Crucially, Governor Lee also proposed statewide building permit reform. “A bureaucratic permitting process is bad for everybody but the government,” he said. “This proposal will make it easier and more cost effective to build homes and businesses and childcare facilities, everything.”


“Our ag industry employs more than 360,000 Tennesseans and generates $89 billion annually, making agriculture the number one contributor to our state's economy,” Lee proudly exclaimed to those in attendance. “Yet today, today we are ranked the third most threatened state for farmland loss in the country.” This year, the state legislature will be introducing the Farmland Preservation Fund, establishing a state-funded grant program for farmers to voluntarily place their land in a conservation easement.

You can watch the entire state of the state address on the governor’s YouTube channel.

*Correction: The unnamed bystander in the left gallery was not a honorary SRO officer in attendance, but was sitting beside them.


East Bank Development Authority could govern 500-plus acres (NBJ) As proposed, the authority would oversee activity in a roughly 500-acre swath of land between the Cumberland River and the interstate, from Oracle's office campus site opposite Germantown south to the decades-old scrapyard operation across from downtown's SoBro and Rolling Mill Hill areas.

Tennessee bill would block incentives to companies from 'countries of concern' (Center Square) A fiscal note on House Bill 1843 noted it would cost Tennessee $43.2 million in fiscal year 2025, $113.8 million in 2026 and $127.0 million in 2028. The note says the state will begin seeing increased state funds from the bill starting with $68.3 million in 2036 and $164.8 million in 2037.

Nashville zoning overhaul: What to know about push for more middle-income housing (Tennessean) The bills are spearheaded by At-large Council member Quin Evans Segall and District 20 Council member Rollin Horton, both serving their first terms. The bills will be introduced to the Metro Council for their first of three readings Tuesday.


  • CSX rail line creates 'barrier' for East Bank vision, consultant says (NBJ)
  • NYC-based restaurateur closes The Dutch at W Nashville hotel (NBJ)
  • Approvals sought for tower eyed for Music Row Roundabout (Post)
  • Las Vegas company taps Midtown for Mexican restaurant (Post)
  • Work to start on West End café space (Post)


View our calendar for the week here and our weekly film rundown here.

📅 Visit our On The Radar list to find upcoming events around Nashville.

🎧 On Spotify: Pamphleteer's Picks, a playlist of our favorite bands in town this week.

👨🏻‍🌾 Check out our Nashville farmer's market guide.


🪕 Missy Raines & Allegheny @ Analog at Hutton Hotel, 7p, $20, Info

🥁 Sofia Goodman Jazz Jam @ Vinyl Tap, 6p, Free, Info

🎺 Todd Day Wait @ The Underdog, 11:30p, Free, Info‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌
+ Honky Tonk Tuesday afterparty, down the street

🎸 Honky Tonk Tuesday @ American Legion Post 82, 5p, Free, Info‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌
+ two-step lessons @ 7p, The Cowpokes @ 8p

In case you missed it...

📰 Check out the full newsletter archive here.

No. 656: Nashville Punches Above Its Weight
📅 Today, Davis talks about Nashville’s cultural clout, Miles previews NSC’s 2024 season, and Megan gets us ready for tonight’s State of the State address.
No. 655: Jones Fails to Walk the Line
📅 Today, Davis gives Justin Jones free PR, we visited the Forging Freedom event in Putnam County, and Megan reports on the mayor’s transit initiative.
No. 654: There’s Another Way
📅 Today, Davis lays the ground for Jano Tantongco’s excellent piece on political developments in El Salvador, and Megan talks about efforts to by legislators to push back against federal overreach.
No. 653: Push Polls and Automobiles
🗓 Today, Davis talks about how much citizens in Nashville rely on cars and Megan reports on a TEA push poll regarding the proposed ESA program.
No. 652: The Sting
📅 Today, Davis talks about sting operations and Megan introduces Metro’s new lobbyist.


  • 🇸🇻 President Nayib Bukele’s historic transformation of El Salvador (Read)
  • 🤼 The Iron Claw is a Heartland epic. Of course it isn’t an Oscar contender. (Read)
  • ☢️ A small Tennessee town's forgotten history as a nuclear leader (Read)
  • 🤡 Metro Arts launches initiative to 'return land, money, and resources' to 'Indigenous, African, and Asian peoples' (Read)
  • And check out our podcast, YouTube, and article archive for more.