News Reviews 03/07/2005

Album Of The Week: George Strait - Somewhere Down In Texas

NEW YORK (by Paris Kazakis, Staff Writer)

George Strait - Somewhere Down In Texas
Original Release Date: June 28, 2005

I can always thank Giannis Petridis (Greek State Radio/ ERT) for my love of country music. I was brought up listening to everything from Patsy Cline to Merle Haggard to Conway Twitty. For every musiclover George Strait, in one way or another, has been a constant throughout our life, as well as every other country fan. That's why the man's a legend and why his popularity seems to grow with each passing year. In a world where traditional country music is shunned, it's refreshing to know that George has remained as popular now as he did 25 years ago.

George Strait's music doesn't quite have the emotional power of some his musical heroes, most notably, Merle Haggard. Still, given the state of country music today, he is considered the modern benchmark for authenticity in a genre of music that is increasingly moving toward the bland and the pop. There are a number of reasons for this. First, Strait controls his own music, choosing for himself which songs he will record, which producers to work with and how his music should sound. He has also refused to compromise on some issues, most importantly refusing to dilute his music with pop-style production methods, and is just about the only country performer today (outside of Haggard, who is considered too country for country radio) to incorporate western swing influences into his music.
The music here is great. This is the best modern country has to offer (at least in its radio-friendly version). This album includes all of Strait's influences and a number of others that you may not have heard of. Given that George Strait doesn't write his own songs, the consistency of the music is impressive.

George Strait started the trend of returning country music back towards its traditional roots in the 1980s. Each song is a winner. George Strait can sing a soulful ballad such as 'Oh, What A Perfect Day' as well as a toe tapping Texas swing tune "Somewhere Down In Texas". Every time I hear 'High Tone Woman' I feel like dancing. One of my favorites is the rodeo ballad 'If The World Was A Honky Tonk' which explores the life of a country-man/woman on the world today.

Strait's first single from this is a future super-hit and slow ballad called 'You'll Be There'. Usually, Strait and or MCA Nashville Records likes to kick things off with an up-tempo song as the first single in hopes of drawing toe-tappers to the CD. But if MCA is risky, then this is worthing double! Even the title gives a unique attidute to the album: he even throws in 'Texas' proving that there will never be a Strait album that doesn't pay homage to the stereotypical Texas lifestyle and the rodeo/cowboy image. This is 2005 and it marks Strait's twenty-fourth year on the country charts... this is getting scary: because George sings with the energy and enthusiasm of a newcomer!

The track #3 "The Seashores of Old Mexico" was written by one of his biggest influences, Merle Haggard. It is a pleasant surprise: it sounds mostly like a Pop Italian song of the 70s and the vocals could have been done by Andriano Celentano, Jane Birkin or Ornella Vanonni. I can predict this one for 'Seahorses of Old Mexico': it will be include in a future movie/soundtrack of Quentin Tarantino...

My favorite is probably "You'll Be There": the most radio-friendly ballad of this year, it begs for a nice two-step with your partner. Several other lush ballads benefit from nice arrangements and orchestration with clever lyrics.

"Good News, Bad News" is a duet with Texan female LeAnn Womack (his first duet with a female recording artist, I think?) What a beautiful love song with a killer melody. I thought that if the timing is right, it would be great to have the song peak on the charts around the beginning of winter. Most singers would drop down a note but not George with the aim of Lee. No, he takes the note up a level. That's just plain great interpretation and singing. For many music industry experts this track is the highlight of the album. I was not hoping to hear more of a George and Tammy style song and thank God, it is much better. Strait tells Womack the "good news" he is coming back to her. She tells him her "bad news" she has found someone else... and the story of love goes on...

"She Let Herself Go" has lyrics will blow your mind. It's one of his best songs in a long time - a song about a woman getting back to life after husband leaves her. He thinks she will fall apart, but she lets herself go to "New York City", a week at the spa comes back knocked out pretty" bland song. It sounds like a song the Alan Jackson or younger performers would have done - the original pop-country sounding for your ears.

To end the album George sings "By The Light of A Burning Bridge" - another radio-friendly track on this album. Perfect mid-tempo, real-life lyrics about a man who can see what he did wrong. But it doesn't say what he did wrong! I believe this song can easily breaks the barriers even in the UK Radio Industry which radios do not play country music: because this is a song the more you hear it, the more you love it.

This album is by far one of the best to date by George Strait. There is not a song on this album that isn't flat out terrific. The musical talents of his band are evident on the latter, and listening to the steel guitar (not to mention a sort of duel between the lead guitar and the piano) will give you chills. There is better country music being made today, but you have to search to find it. George Strait is the best country radio's willing to play and this album represents country music's nowdays trends well.
Straits session players - organ and steel guitar, for example - fill the space around his elegant vocals with taste and grace, supplying an audible teardrop and an anguished sigh. It all adds up to a nearly perfect album from a justifiable king of modern country.
This is a beautiful blend of swing and traditional influences are a treat to the ear. For Strait fans, the album 'Somewhere Down In Texas' is merely confirmation of what we already know - this man is awesome. If you are not yet a Strait fan, this one will definitely convert you.
Ten out of ten!
Rating: 10/10

1. If The Whole World Was A Honky Tonk
2. Somewhere Down In Texas
3. The Seashores Of Old Mexico
4. You'll Be There
5. High Tone Woman
6. Good News, Bad News
7. Oh, What A Perfect Day
8. Texas
9. Ready For The End Of The World
10. She Let Herself Go
11. By The Light Of A Burning Brige

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