Single Review: Toby Keith, “35 MPH Town”

Toby Keith 35 MPH Town

“35 MPH Town”
Toby Keith

Written by Toby Keith and Bobby Pinson

Toby Keith revisits one of his most successful ongoing themes – life in a dying small town.

In this case, he lays the blames the pending death on a lack of religion and strict discipline in the lives of today’s youth.

It’s a different approach for him, as usually he talks about the collapse of economic opportunity leading to the downfall of small town America.    That’s lingering under the surface, of course, but not his primary focus here.

One of the earliest, surest signs of getting older is when you start asking the question, “What’s the deal with kids today?”  They’re really not much different than we were, as Keith hints at with references to the drinking and smoking in his mom’s youth.

Keith is such a master storyteller that he can let the mother do most of the talking as to why the town has gone downhill, but the protagonist speaks volumes simply by his need to ask the question.  If he hadn’t left home as soon as he could, he’d already know the answer.

For me, that lack of knowledge told me more about why the town was dying than anything the mom said throughout the song, though he inhibits her voice in the way only a great singer can.    There’s anger, vulnerability, and fear in there, and a bit of resilience and stubbornness, too.

I’m happy Keith’s star has faded a bit, as he’s gone back to making the compelling and interesting music that made him a dark horse candidate for superstardom in the first place.  There have been a lot of singles from him lately that should be counted among his greatest, and this is one of them.

Grade A



  1. Honestly, I would give it a “C”. That might even be a bit too kind, I just dislike some of the lyrical content of this song. The “things are terrible these days” narrative is played out, statistically speaking crime is actually much lower than it has been in some time. We are simply more aware of all the terrible things that do happen due to the increased availability of media in our pockets.

    I don’t really hate it, but honestly this song just comes off as Keith being an old man crying how things are “broken” in todays society. It just feels a bit played out, the same way one would grow tired of their grandparent saying how terrible today’s generation is.

    I get there are a lot of things that this generation does wrong, as someone who spends the majority of their time on a college campus I see it first hand, but I also think they have a number of positive qualities about them. I just think this song want’s to try and take a complex issue and turn it into a black and white issue, which is very hard to pull off.

    At least it’s a Toby song not about beer drinking or drinking in general, he really went to that well too many times in recent years. Just wish this song was a bit closer to “Love Me If You Can”.

  2. I just hope that the speaker isn’t supposed to be “right,” and that this is more along the lines of “Okie in Muskogee.”

    Also, Mike, I wouldn’t mind another drinking song if it was as good as “I Like Girls Who Drink Beer.” That’s one of his best singles, IMO.

  3. I don’t need to listen to it to know it’s gonna be bad honestly Toby Keith has never impressed me ever his songs are all the same beer America drunk occasional heartache song that’s his catalog and his voice often times feels sub par.

  4. I agree with Thomas. As long as the narrator isn’t “right”, this makes for a very interesting character study. However, I always think these kinds of singles are dangerous, since someone is always bound to hear it at text level and either take issue with it or support it all too rigorously.

  5. Toby Keith has one of the best voices in modern country music and this song does a good job of showcasing it, so I like how this song sounds. I, however, do have some misgivings about the observations in the song (as Mike W pointed out), though I can give it some leeway based on the fact that it’s from his mother’s point of view. Even in my mid thirties (Ugh!), I still get annoyed when people rant about how bad today’s youth are compared to the good old days, since I don’t necessarily think it’s true. I do agree that it’s good to hear him singing more substantive material than chest thumping, beer drinking songs these days.

  6. Bobby Pinson is one of my all-time favorite songwriters, and I usually appreciate how he weaves faith into songs without proselytizing or judging others. So this is a departure and an unfortunate one. It’s simplistic to blame the decline of small towns on a lack of Jesus, and it’s offensive to people of other faiths or no faith to suggest that Christians have the sole claim to morality.

  7. As a member of the targeted generation, I completely agree with this song. My generation, on the whole, is a spendthrift, anything goes generation.

    I fail to see how it is simplistic to offer one point on small town problems. It is a short song, not an essay or book.

    As for being “offensive”, people need to get over themselves. He is offering his point of view as a simple statement. And he never stated in the song that Christians have the sole claim to morality.

    Toby Keith has the guts to sing this. Everyone wanted deeper songs on the radio, Toby obligated with a risky move during his declining commercial career.

  8. Love it!!! And it speaks the truth. This country is as close to Sodom & Gommorah as you can get.

    My aunt lived in the same house for 45 years. Her kids used to walk to school when they were young. Now the police are always coming out to her neighborhood because of violence. A woman was stabbed in the yard across from her house and every house in the neighborhood has been vandelized.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.