Thursday, October 12, 2006

Music: Thoughts on a Legend...And His New CD

So George Strait last week released his latest cd, a 15-song work titled "It Just Comes Natural." I've been a big fan of Strait for a long time, so of course I made sure to pick up the cd the day it was released. Some might say, I suppose, that after 25 years, George Strait's best years are behind him; well, after a listen to his latest work I can honestly say that these people don't know what they're talking about. I've never been disappointed with a Strait work, but I can honestly say this is the best album George Strait has done in the last ten years. You won't find any surprises here, just George doing what's worked for him for the duration of his time in the spotlight -- old songs, new songs, cover songs, heartbreak, love, longing, and some spine-tingling poetry, too.
I loved the first single, "Give It Away," with that spoken-word bit in it, and what a picture the song paints, of a woman who's had quite enough. I got the feeling she was a bit of a psycho, as the words of the song's main character were, shall we say, a bit understated. Maybe that's the way the writers wanted it, but understated delivery has always been one of Strait's strong points, as he also shows in "He Must Have Really Hurt You Bad," where the bartender's giving a heartbroken lady in red some advice against a beautiful piano backdrop. Strait's Texas dancehall roots show quite well in his cover of Bruce Robison's "Wrapped," a gentle fiddle-and-steel shuffle, and "What Say," a beautiful fiddle-laced ode to fidelity and old-fashioned values. And of course it wouldn't be a George Strait album without some good barroom honky-tonk, and Strait delivers here in spades with a cover of George Jones' "She Told Me So" -- just wait'll you hear the neat little twist in that one - and the slow, bluesy "Why Can't I Leave Her Alone," and rousing covers of Guy Clark's "Texas Cookin'" and Lee Roy Parnells' "One Foot In Front of the Other." Strait mines an old fruitful territory -- the broken-hearted cowboy lament -- with "I Ain't Her Cowboy Anymore," which admittedly has a bit more of a polished sound than its older brother "I Can Still Make Cheyenne," but still deserves a place in the pantheon of great Strait rodeo songs. You'll even find Strait waxing philosophical in "A Better Rain,that'll wash me from your eyes, so you can smile again..."
There's really only one misstep here, "How 'Bout Them Cowgirls." I just have to say, this song does nothing for me. It just seems so insipid, trite...blah. Still, though, it doesn't detract from the overall quality of this album enough to make any kind of difference.
The King of Texas has delivered again, folks. Go pick this one up. I guarantee you, you won't be sorry.

UPDATE: From Reuters:

Strait scored his 30th chart entry with "It Just Comes Natural," which opened at No. 3 with 232,000. The MCA Nashville set was also No. 1 on Top Country Albums chart, his 20th on that tally.

I never was one to put THAT much stock in sales figures, as I've seen too many people use those figures to advance their argument that is the best. I do, however, find it heartening indeed that someone who's been doing what George Strait does -- honest-to-goodness REAL COUNTRY MUSIC -- can still sell at that level, in addition to filling basketball arenas and football stadiums all across this great land. It should really give pause to anyone who says that kind of music, and the people who make it, belong in the dustbin of history.