First Appeared in The Music Box, May 2008, Volume 15, #5
Written by John Metzger
Fri May 9, 2008, 06:30 AM CDT
George Strait, much like his idol George Jones, knows a musically engaging song when he hears one. He also is well aware of what his audience wants, and he never fails to give it to them. Itís no wonder, then, that he has become one of Nashvilleís biggest-selling stars, and there is no doubt that his latest effort Troubadour will keep his seemingly endless array of hitting streaks alive, especially considering that it debuted in the top spot on Billboardís country charts. Naturally, the collection is chock-full of potential chart-topping singles, and the album itself is yet another consistently pleasing affair that will connect with traditional and contemporary country fans alike.
One of the biggest criticisms surrounding Straitís output over the years is that he doesnít seem to want to rock the boat. Long ago, he established a standard template for his endeavors, and he hasnít really made any attempt to broaden his horizons. Nevertheless, where most artists following this path typically would have become quite bored with the routine, Strait appears to revel in it. Despite his formulaic approach, he never gives anything less than his full support to the material, which has the effect of turning the stylistic redundancy of his work into an advantage. His albums may feel comfortably familiar, but they also sound impassioned and fresh.
Not surprisingly, there are plenty of times when Troubadour adheres closely to Straitís well-established blueprint. I Saw God Today is, for example, a heart-wrenching, mid-tempo tune along the lines of She Let Herself Go. As has been Straitís custom, the influences of Charlie Rich and Merle Haggard are tucked into just about every nook and cranny of the set. Finally, with the spry swing of West Texas Town, Strait keeps the legacy of Bob Wills, his home-state hero, alive for another generation.
There is one difference, though, that separates Troubadour from Straitís prior endeavors, and it stems from the fact that he ever so slightly has moved away from his old-school style. Although his outings always have come wrapped in a glossy, exterior sheen, they also have maintained an air of honest realism about them. There is a definite shift in the production of Troubadour that plants it closer to the mainstream, pop-oriented fare that has bogged down Nashville for years. The truckersí tale Brothers of the Highway as well as House of Cash ó a memorial of sorts to Johnny and June Carter Cash that Strait sings as a duet with Patty Loveless ó are both a little too arena-ready for their own good. In the end, though, while Troubadour is a step back from his previous effort It Just Comes Natural, Strait still manages to make it all work as only he can.
51st Annual Grammy Award Winner:
Best Country Album
Of Further Interest...
Troubadour is available from Barnes & Noble.
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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