I’ve been thinking a lot about George Strait lately. Though I’ve never been a big fan of his music, he seems to be an exception to some of the rules that govern Music Row. Yes, he’s sold millions of albums and is all over commercial radio and CMT, but he also gone out of his way, at least symbolically, to stay true to his roots and the roots of country music. Some examples are his performance of “Murder on Music Row” which I talked about in the Is Country Music Dead? article, and the movie “Pure Country” made in the heat of the Garth Brooks “Young Country” era.
Below savingcountrymusic.com contributor Cliff England talks about Strait’s new album, and his accolades over the years. Feel free to express your opinions on the music and the man below as well.
George Strait, one of country’s biggest selling artists returns this week with his twenty-fifth studio record, Twang. Strait has been a staple to mainstream country music for nearly thirty years. He has racked up 57 number one hits, a record for any genre. As well, Strait has sold nearly 73 millions records in that time span. So it goes without saying, you might have heard of him.
Strait, a Texas native and a life-long rodeo man, came to prominence in the early 1980’s. His western-swing style of honky-tonk is always catchy enough to be played on the radio, but genuine enough to be listened to by a wide range of country music fans. Yet, some still question Strait’s authenticity because of his allegiance with many of the Nashville elite, and the exponential commercial success of his music.
The range of artist Strait takes influence from is wide, poignantly dripped with sounds of Merle Haggard, Lefty Frizell, Conway Twitty and the great Bob Wills. His Texas roots and the south in general can be heard throughout his music. Songs like “Amarillo by Morning”, “All My Ex’s Live in Texas”, “Tell Me Something Bad About Tulsa” and “The Cowboy Rides Away” tell stories of life in the rodeo, barroom good times, and broken hearted cowboys in the south west. They are infused with humor, sincerity, and irresistible class.
Strait has also dipped his spurs in the acting ring. He starred in the 1992 film, Pure Country. The film delved into the life of a Nashville artist trying to stay true to the roots of the music he loved, all the while being overcome with the industry trying to make his performance into a Garth Brooks like show. The soundtrack for the movie was always performed by Strait.
Twang, released August 11, marks a change for Strait. It is the first record Strait is credited with song writing, since the 1982 track “I Can’t See Texas from Here.” Strait co-writes three of the tracks, “Living for the Night” “Out of Sight, Out of Mind” and “He’s Got That Something Special”, for the album.
Co-writing is not the only first for Strait on Twang. The final song off the album, “El Rey”, is a complete Spanish language track. Spanish language tracks are something Strait has experimented with in the past, given his strong Texas-Mexican influence, but never released on a studio record.
This album will surely open up the discussion of George Strait’s place country music history. Will his vast catalog of traditional country hits spanning three decades be enough to overcome the fact that most of them have been wrote by someone else, or will it leave Strait in the puddle of artist that have been criticized for lack of artistic integrity? In the scope of country history is Strait to be looked at as a puppet to the Nashville establishment, or a man that stood on his own ground and did things his own way? Was Strait speaking honestly when he sang the Larry Cordle classic “Murder on Music Row”, or is he just another a part of the problem? I know my answer.