Some might say the beauty of George Strait is you know what you’re going to get – straight ahead country music. But the real beauty of George Strait is his innate ability to collide comfortable & worn with fresh & exciting every time he straps on his guitar and steps up to the microphone.
Here For A Good Time, Strait’s 39th studio album, is every bit fresh & new as it is comfortable, reliable King George. Co-produced by Strait and his longtime friend and legendary producer Tony Brown, George returned to the Jimmy Buffet owned Shrimpboat Sound Studio in Key West, FL to record the album. This is the same studio he has used to record his last three award winning albums.
With a career that spans three decades, Strait has racked up the most #1 singles of any artist in history including Elvis (57 to date inclusive of all charts). In addition to his nearly 69 million records sold, his 33 different platinum or multi-platinum albums account for the most RIAA platinum certifications in country music and is 3rd in all genres behind only The Beatles and Elvis Presley. Strait was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2006.
Almost equally as impressive, Strait has spent his entire professional career on MCA Records Nashville.
Yet even after all the years, hits and hardware Strait continues to pick up steam. The albums title track / lead single “Here For A Good Time” is not only his 89th career single, it clocked in as the second highest debut in his storied career on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.
While George didn’t have much of a hand in writing his songs for many years, that has drastically changed on Here For A Good Time. After writing three songs with his son Bubba and trusted songsmith Dean Dillon for his 2009 album Twang, George is credited with co-writing seven of the tracks on the new album; six as a trio with Bubba and Dean (including the title track) while George and Bubba put together “Shame On Me” on their own.
“It was mainly Bubba’s influence,” George recalls about his more recent delve back into songwriting. “He decided he wanted to write and he wanted to get me involved in it. I kinda reluctantly did it at first but found I really enjoyed doing it. Early in my career, I wrote a lot. I didn’t record a lot of the songs I wrote but I did, nevertheless, write a lot. And then I just got lazy. I was finding what I think were great songs from great songwriters in Nashville so that’s the route I went. But I’m fired up about writing again now. It’s fun to write with Bubba and a lot of fun to write with Dean, so I’m probably going to continue to do it from now on.”
It only takes two songs before Here For A Good Time delivers its first paralyzing punch in the form of “Drinkin’ Man,” a tale told through the eyes of a man who spends a lifetime desperately wanting/trying to walk away from the bottle but repeatedly falls into the drunken surrender of a life lost to liquor.
“I love that song. I had been thinking about that idea for a while and I told Dean that one night. I said, ‘Hey, man. I’ve got a good idea for a song, I think. It’s a helluva lot to ask of a drinking man.’ I don’t think it really sunk into him at the time, but then we got down to the ranch and started kicking around this idea. When we finished it, I was so proud of it. It came out exactly the way I had imagined it. I just love it. It takes us through the whole gamut of this guy who’s pretty hung up on the bottle.”
As with liquor, women have long been the pitfall of many a man and George puts forth his take on that as well with “Poison.” Led along by a haunting guitar and George’s floor sweeping baritone the song tells the tale that there’s something in every mans life that can make you feel bulletproof. You can learn to love anything that can bring you pleasure or pain….you just have to pick your poison.
The biggest surprise on the album comes in the form of “Blue Marlin Blues” where the song almost literally splashes sunshine and crystal blue water right out of your speakers. Kicked off with a tasty guitar lick and pushed along by what can only be described as a dig in & twist it up groove, this is not only a destination spot for the album but surely a can’t miss moment when George hits the concert stage. It might not be the kind of tune you’d expect from George, but it’s a wonderfully executed surprise.
“I like to fish for bill fish. It’s another one of my passions, so I’ve been entering some tournaments here lately. For years I never entered tournaments but a few years ago, I decided I wanted to fish in some of the BBC tournaments in the Bahamas. After that year of fishing, I decided there were so many days I could go out, and catch nothing. I truly did have the blue marlin blues. You know, lines in at 8 and lines out at 4 and nothing in between. You’re not catching anything. So that’s how that song came about.”
Those looking for their traditional Texas Strait can readily find it on Here For A Good Time in the forms of the fiddle and steel guitar laden “Shame On Me,” the two stepping “Lone Star Blues,” or the albums initial track “Love’s Gonna Make It Alright.” One of the albums high water marks comes in the form of “A Showman’s Life” where Faith Hill lends her songbird vocals to create one of the more amazing harmonies George has ever partnered on.
The most ruminating moment comes at the end of the album in the soon to be tale of goodbye of “I’ll Always Remember You.” Co-written by the trio of George, Bubba & Dean the songs title and 1st verse leads you to believe the story is about a man and the love of his life. Turning slowly like a road around an outstretched mountain, it isn’t until you’re nearly a minute in that you realize George IS the man in the song and the love of his life is everybody listening to it. While the lyrics and sequencing placement are sure to lead to speculation about Strait’s retirement (George turns 60 in May of 2012) George sings the promise “I’m not saying I’m through by any means. There’s still things I want to say & do.”
“I wanted to write something that would tell the fans how much I’ve appreciated them over the years, and just like it says in the song, I’m not quittin’; I’m not saying I’m there by any means. I’m still enjoying it. Still having a great time doing it. I just want them to know we’re not here for a long time, so I want to say it now so they’ll know. I think the song is exactly how I feel. It was hard to do in the studio. I was choking up, and I’m sure it’ll be that way on stage, too. It’ll be hard but I just want all my fans to know how much they do mean to me.”
Even still, the song serves as a stark reminder that while the end of his musical days isn’t quite here yet, the King won’t be taking the stage forever.
Often success can change a man and while George has definitely seen his share of growth and change as a musician, along this 30 year career, he has remained as dependable in life as he has with his music. While he has racked up nearly every major awards (many more than once) including Grammy’s, CMA’s, ACM’s; much has remained the same for George Strait.
He is still married to his high school sweetheart Norma, whom he married in December of 1971. His backing band (known as the Ace In The Hole band) is the only band that has ever backed him since he left the Army back in 1975 and was not built around him as most bands are, but instead George JOINED the Ace In The Hole band (then named Stoney Ridge) as their singer back during his college days at Southwest Texas State University. While some members have changed over the years, bass guitarist Terry Hale and steel guitarist Mike Daily remain from the original group. George met Erv Woolsey (his manager to this day) in the early ‘80’s who arranged for some execs from MCA Records to come to Texas and see the (then) young singer.
In his personal life as well, George continues to mix comfortable & worn with fresh & exciting. As he readies himself to be a Grandad for the first time this winter, he still loves his golf (he and a friend recently purchased a course in Texas and are readying it for a November ’11 opening), he still loves his Team Roping Classic as it enters its 30th year and he still loves his fishing.
And as he stands here today, amidst all of his awards, accolades and most of the same people he has for the last 30+ years, George is still excited about making new music, still looking ahead and still driven by the same thing he’s always been.
“I still enjoy it—I still love it. As long as I love it and enjoy it and am having fun, then I’m gonna keep doing it. I’m motivated by what I’ve always been motivated by—trying to make the best records that I can make and doing the best shows that I can do. Whenever that doesn’t motivate me anymore, then I’ll have to quit. It’s still a lot of fun for me now.”