22 More Hits
First Appeared in The Music Box, February 2008, Volume 15, #2
Written by John Metzger
Wed February 13, 2008, 06:30 AM CST
With 34 albums released over the past 25 years, George Strait has become one of the biggest-selling artists in country music history. He also holds the record for landing more singles at the top of Billboard’s country music charts than anyone. (For the record, he has placed 42 songs in this lofty position, and he has shown no signs of slowing down). Yet, even with this knowledge, it still comes as a shock that Strait not only managed in 2004 to scrounge together the material to compile 50 Number Ones, but also that there were enough worthwhile leftovers lying around to string together his latest retrospective 22 More Hits. There’s no doubt that Strait has become a very consistent cash cow for the industry, but what is, perhaps, most surprising about his successes is that he has accomplished these feats not by seeking crossover appeal but rather by staying true to his roots.
This, of course, doesn’t mean that Strait isn’t a pop artist at heart. Unlike many of his contemporaries and followers, however, he hasn’t shown any interest in earning his fame and fortune by leaving behind his country heart and soul. Instead, Strait has delved deep into Nashville’s rich legacy, and his work consistently has drawn as much from the Bakersfield sound of Merle Haggard as it did from the Western swing of Bob Wills. Fueled by the spirit and edginess of early rock ’n‘ roll and polished with the sparkle and shine of Charlie Rich and Glen Campbell, Strait has developed a formula from which he has never wavered.
Remarkably, 22 More Hits fits rather nicely alongside 50 Number Ones to create a sterling overview of Strait’s canon. For certain, there’s nothing particularly new or distinctive about his approach, but considering the music that has come from Nashville in recent years, his albums sound both fresh and comfortable. Although he doesn’t pen his own material, he and his stellar backing band have become astoundingly good at interpreting the songs of others. Collectively, they lend a fiery intensity to the two-steps and a sympathetic sense of sorrow to the ballads. Strait fares best when he has a point to make — such as on She Let Herself Go, a tale of a woman who blossoms after her husband walks out the door, and on You’ll Be There, which reveals a surprising level of vulnerability. In truth, however, there’s nary a moment on 22 More Hits when Strait doesn’t find his target. He knows what he’s after, and he knows how to get it — by making music that is as stuck in time as it is timeless. ½
Of Further Interest...
22 More Hits is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2008 The Music Box