Friday, July 10, 2009

George Strait Will Blow Your Mind

Cover of "Strait Country"Cover of Strait Country

Before listening to George Strait's new album,"Twang," yesterday I couldn't ever imagine stringing these words together, but now I can: "George Strait will blow your mind."

When you’ve been making music as long as Strait has—his first album, “Strait Country,” came out in 1981—it has to be tough to come up with new twists and still maintain the level of success King George has had for 28 years.

I have long appreciated Strait's music and ear for a song. Who else has done what he's done so consistently for so long in any genre of music? I'll answer my own question. No one.

But here's the thing: on Strait's new album he takes a few musical detours that deserve our attention.

Tony Brown, who has co-produced every Strait album since “Pure Country” in 1992, agrees that “Twang,” due Aug. 11, will surprise more than a few people. “When I work with artists like George and Reba McEntire, I’m always careful not to take them where they shouldn’t go, but this is going to blow your mind,” he recently told me.

Recorded at Jimmy Buffett’s Shrimp Boat Studios in Key West, Fla., the album includes a song that Strait sings entirely in Spanish, “El Rey,” which is a Mexican standard and was a giant mariachi hit for Vincente Fernandez. ("El Rey" means "the king.") “After he played the song for me, George said, ‘Can we do this?’” Brown remembers. “'Hell, yeah,' I said. 'You’re George Strait. Everybody’s wondering what we’re going to do anyway'."

Brown was so taken with the track that he suggested Strait call the album "El Rey." Strait disagreed. "I can call myself a troubadour," he told Brown, "but I can't call myself 'the King'."

The song also includes horns—a first. “I’ve never put horns on a George Strait record,” Brown says with a chuckle.

The album includes three songs that Strait co-wrote, which is another first for the man who has made a living singing songs others wrote. (He wrote one song on his 1981 debut.) First single “Living For The Night” was co-written by Strait, son Bubba and longtime contributor Dean Dillon. The trio also wrote “He’s Got That Something Special.” Meanwhile, Strait and his son wrote “Out Of Sight Out Of Mind” and Bubba wrote “Arkansas Dave” solo.

“[Johnny] Cash down the middle,” is how Brown describes the latter song and he's right. “Usually George never does a track for arts sake, but this is a piece of art.”

Meanwhile, "Hot Grease And Zydeco" is a greasy and fun as the title suggests.

“If everybody expected us to step it up a bit, by God we did,” Brown says. “This is a side of George I’ve never heard before.”

Amen to that and God bless George Strait.

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  1. Hi Ken..I just posted about this new CD coming up on Amazon preorder today..went to see George here in Jersey last month where he did the new song. GREAT to hear he is now penning songs..with Bubba nevertheless..

  2. I just heard George on the radio singing "El Rey" while I was driving! I almost had an accident. He is awesome! I can't wait till August 11th. I was chando gritos all the way home.

  3. my brother-in-law heard the song "el rey" for the first time on the radio he recorded it on his phone and sent it to my husband, we couldn't believe our ears he sounds sooooo good!!!! i couldn't even believe it was really him. I'm SO buying this CD when it comes out! Yup George Strait really is "EL REY" for pulling this off.

  4. I was at the dentist office and heard El Rey ans asked is that George? Now I have heard it all!! He could sing ABC's and sound good. Gotta love him!!! Fan for years in South Texas

  5. HOLY CRAP! AMAZING. I hear about it today and was like, no way. Yes WAY! El Rey is a the mexican version of "Amarillo by Morning", "Hotel California". An old mexican song that has stood the test of time. And George did it proud. Mexican restaurants on Friday and Saturday nights have changed Forever! Everyone in the restaurant will know the words now to one of the classic standards mariachis play. By the way, If you are starting a mariachi group, this WOULD be the FIRST song you would learn. Great.

  6. I haven't listened nothing of his music. but it is quite funny the name of his album. Thanks for the recommendation. I will give it a try.