Honkytonk University (2005) finds Toby Keith getting back to the less-confrontational topics and sounds of his 1990s work. As in those days, some of the strongest moments here deal with heartache, with the tormented “Knock Yourself Out” and the sensitive “You Caught Me At A Bad Time” coming across particularly well. There’s an older-and-wiser air to tunes like “As Good As I Once Was” and “Big Blue Note,” all the more touching given Keith’s tough-guy image. Balancing these thoughtful numbers are flashes of ornery humor and outlaw pride, such as the Waylon Jennings-like title track and the Bob Wills-ish “You Ain’t Leavin’ (Thank God Ya Are).” Does all this suggest that Keith is (gulp) mellowing? Actually, he’s showing a measure of courage by avoiding cheap shots and tackling subtler themes of love and sorrow. On Honkytonk University, he graduates to a higher artistic level without losing his rebel edge.