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Toby Keith and Ford are still tough, tight

for Journal Register Newspapers

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It's been a decade since country star Toby Keith starting hawking Ford trucks. And he says the relationship is built as tough as the company's blue oval logo.

"It's been wonderful," says Keith, 50, whose own resilient career dates back 19 years, with 19 No. 1 country hits and a dozen platinum or better albums. "Most of those deals last two or three years, and when the auto industry was having their latest crisis I just naturally thought we were something they'd have to trim.

"But they came back and said, 'Oh, no, our dealers really think the world of you and it's been a good partnership and we'd like to keep it going at all costs. So here we are 10 years later, still out there with a good sponsorship partner."

And Keith, not surprisingly, has a garage full of Fords -- not just F-series trucks but also a '59 Mustang and a 2006 GT. "They've taken good care of us through the years," he notes.

Keith, who also makes Wild Shot Mezcal and owns a chain of I Love This Bar & Grill restaurants -- including one at Great Lakes Crossing in Auburn Hills -- is currently taking care of the next step in his career. Following 2011's "Clancy's Tavern" and its mega-hit "Red Solo Cup," he has "about 14 or 15 things" recorded for what will be his 17th studio album, including a song called "I Like Girls That Drink Beer" and another about golfing, but Keith says it's still a work in progress.

"I don't really know what 10 or 11 (songs) are going to make the album yet," says Keith, who's also helping his daughter Krystal record her debut album. "I just go in and get a good vocal on everything and then I'll start seeing which three or four gravitate to the top and I'll start building the core of my album right there, and then I'll fill in what I don't have."

"We'll know more about it soon, but it's a little early just yet."

Toby Keith, Brantley Gilbert and Thomas Rhett perform at 7 p.m. Friday, June 29, at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township. Tickets are $86 and $69.50 pavilion, $29.50 lawn. Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.

Web Site: www.palacenet.com

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