The Washington Post: Review of George Strait's 'Here for a Good Time'
Quick spins: George Strait, Asa, St. Vincent
By Allison Stewart
September 7, 2011
“Here For a Good Time”
Country’s best-known new traditionalist, Hall of Famer George Strait, has survived Garth Brooks, Taylor Swift and countless other genre scourges, adapting his sound only enough to survive. On his almost thoroughly excellent new disc (his 39th, all told), “Here for a Good Time,” he sticks to a familiar formula of sad songs and honky-tonk rave-ups, pathos and grit.
“Here for a Good Time” is populated by gentle, loping mid-tempo country songs that spotlight Strait’s boundless gift for sounding wistful and grave, contemplative and wry. He always sounds a little disappointed, as if he knows that you, the listener, could have done better if only you, the listener, had tried a little harder. It’s an approach codified on the ballad “Three Nails and a Cross,” partly about a frightened pregnant teen who finds religion: “She turns and sees that Bible laying by her bed / And she crumbles to her knees as she bows her head,” Strait sings, in a tone that suggests it’s about time.
Strait isn’t afraid to wring every last ounce of drama out of songs like the great road warrior ballad “A Showman’s Life,” which features nicely understated backing vocals by Faith Hill, or “Drinkin’ Man,” a dark, empathetic look at a lifelong alcoholic. He wraps things up with “I’ll Always Remember You,” an ode to Strait’s career and fans that ends with a spoken-word thank-you to the folks. It’s dated beyond words, something you might find on one of those Conway Twitty albums advertised on late-night TV in 1972. In anyone else’s hands it would have been hopelessly drippy; in Strait’s, it’s old school.
Recommended Tracks: “I’ll Always Remember You,” “A Showman’s Life”