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2009 album from the Country icon, the follow-up to his platinum selling Troubadour album. Strait was recently recognized by the Academy Of Country Music as the Artist Of The Decade and was honored in a primetime CBS special that won the night's ratings, proving yet again that George is King! Twang features 13 tracks including the first single 'Living For The Night', which was written by George, his son Bubba and hit songwriter Dean Dillon.
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The title track, "Twang", is an upbeat and catchy single, and is bound to be his next sure-fire #1 hit. It's a pure classic country song with lots of twang, done in unique George Strait style. The second track on the CD, "Where Have I Been All My Life", slows things down a bit -- and it features a great tune with strong lyrics. It was co-written by Sherrie Austin, who a few years ago had a couple top 30 singles of her own ("Never Been Kissed" and "Streets Of Heaven"). "Where Have I Been All My Life" is a great ballad which reflects back on all the things that we may have missed out on earlier in our life, and is definitely one of the highlights on the album. "Easy As You Go" is a nice laid back song, and "Arkansas Dave" is another interesting tune -- which was written solely by Bubba Strait. It's a very simple traditional storytelling song, which has the feel of classic music released a few decades ago...Johnny Cash would be proud! The last song on the album, "El Rey", will be quite a surprise to many who aren't expecting it. It's entirely sung in Spanish -- similar to Mexican mariachi style of music. It has to be one of the most unusual songs that George has ever recorded, and it's most likely a love or hate type of tune. One thing is for sure, it's definitely an unexpected end to the album!
To me, "The Breath You Take" is by far the stand out track on the album. It's a simple song, not overproduced, and it's just so strong and powerful. It's one of the best songs I've heard in a long time, and I'm sure this will be a blockbuster hit single. It is such an inspirational ballad, and I think it seems to have a "Song Of The Year" nomination written all over it. You really have to take a listen to this song -- even if it's the only tune that you hear. Overall, George sounds just as strong as he's ever been, and I would definitely recommend this album!
Loyalty is the secret to Strait's success. Despite amassing a staggering 57 number 1 hits, Strait rarely disappoints: in fact, every CD is loaded with sing-a-long barn burners, pit and sawdust honky tonkers and his signature heart tugging ballads. Adopting such a winsome template "Twang," Strait's 26th studio album, is again bound to be voraciously devoured by his legion of fans. Strait's not only consistent in his audio output, but he is loyal to a small handful of songwriters who have first brought him to the dance. Faithfully he returns for the cream of their crop each year and here their names are again engraved in the song's credits. They include Jim Lauderdale, Dean Dillon, Steve Bogard and Rick Giles. However, lest naysayers yawn, thinking that all is predictable Strait does throw in a few curve balls this time: this CD finds Strait's adult son Bubba Strait coaxed his dad for his own three contributions. Further, Strait himself picks up his pen in co-writing three songs himself, something he has not done since the early 80s. Another surprise comes towards the end of the CD when Strait recorded an entirely Spanish song "El Rey."
As with most Strait albums the ballads are the highlights: Dean Dillon again tops the list of Strait writers with the best entries here. A gorgeous ballad in the tradition of "I Cross My Heart" and "True,""The Breath You Take" chronicles the highlights of the protagonist's life such as the time he met his wife, the birth of their child and so forth. While lead single "Living for the Night," another Dillon co-write with Strait and son Bubba, is a string-laden tortured barroom lament about a man so trapped in his pain that he only lives for the night drowning in booze. Wisdom comes with age and experience is the theme of the steel-drenched "Where Have I Been All My Life," which is surprisingly co-written by former Arista artist Sherrie Austin. After hearing the way Strait slowly nuances and caresses each word of the heartbreaking "Beautiful Day for Goodbye," one is tempted to place Strait on the same pedestal as some of country music most venerated crooners such as Vern Gosdin and George Jones.
When the tempo picks up, Jim Lauderdale's co-write "I Gotta Get to You," despite its cheesy lyrics, spells a future number one hit for Strait. A few plays of "I Gotta Get to You" will certainly get one hooked to its infectiously melodic line. "Arkansas Dave," a twist-ending tale involving an old gunslinger, is the panacea to the current epidemic of songs dearth of depth and imagination. Though written by young Bubba Strait, "Arkansas Dave" has a fermented age to it harkening back to the story songs of Kenny Rogers and Johnny Cash in the 70s. Further, Strait indulges in some swampy blues with a cover of Delbert McClinton's "Same Kind of Crazy." Though Strait offers his pledge of allegiance to country music, the title cut "Twang" could have been more anthemic if it weren't for its average melody.
The big buzz here is "El Rey," a song recorded entirely in Spanish. Though this is the first time Strait has crossed the linguistic boundary, "El Rey" (which means "The King") a tune that exalts masculinity, sounds like any upbeat mandolin-led Spanish tune out there. And despite Strait sounding very much like a native Spanish speaker, the song just doesn't live up to its hype. However such cavils in no way tarnishes "Twang" as a consistent good album from Strait. Anyone who has had loved Strait's vast catalog will find much to delight in here--the ballads in particular are tantalizingly great.
For starters, Strait takes on the role of songwriter - something that hasn't happened since his second album, Strait From The Heart, in 1982 (the song was "I Can't See Texas From Here"). He collaborates with son Bubba and longtime Strait tunesmith Dean Dillon ("The Chair," and "Marina Del Rey," among dozens more). The result? Strait contributes to three songs that stand shoulder to shoulder with anything he's recorded before - most notably, the smooth and heartbreaking "Living For The Night," the album's first single. "He's Got That Something Special" is a country toe-tapper, defying the listener not to sing along. Father and son craft a classic barroom tearjerker, "Out Of Sight Out Of Mind," which is pure Strait, through and through. Bubba Strait also adds "Arkansas Dave," a murderous story song, reminiscent of material Marty Robbins and Johnny Cash would have recorded in the `70's.
Elsewhere, Dean Dillon, Jessie Jo Dillon and Casey Beathard's "The Breath You Take" provides the album's emotional cornerstone. Strait works his magic, taking a clichéd line like " Life's not the breath you take/But the moments that take your breath away" and skillfully makes it resonate. The song is one of the most beautiful to ever appear on a George Strait album, and it deserves to be a future single. The sure-fire second single is the roof-raising title track. Other fun moments include "Some Kind of Crazy" and "Hot Grease and Zydeco," which is sure to become a staple in Strait's live shows.
The album's biggest surprise is saved for last: "El Rey" is a Mexican folk song that he sings - quite convincingly - completely in Spanish. If the country music thing doesn't work out for him, Strait could easily have a career on the Tejano circuit. The title translates to "The King," and the last lines read: "A cowboy told me/You don't have to arrive first/but just know how to arrive." Appropriately, this sums up Strait's career thus far. His has been a journey of class, consistency and influence, with great humility.
The King, indeed.
One thing that I also noticed about the CD is that the songs, for the most part, are under-stated. There isn't a lot of production...well, there's the same standard production values, but George's voice isn't drowned out by the musical accompaniment. This is evident on "Where Have I Been All My Life", the second song on the CD...but then on track three "I Gotta Get To You" we have a song that sounds like it might in fact be a potential single. I don't know if it'll be released this year or if MCA will wait until the spring of 2010. It stands out as a radio single to my ears.
"Easy As You Go" is a pleasant sing-a-long kind of song...the four songs that kick off the CD set up "Living For the Night", track number five. As that is his current single it's familiarity will bring a more embracing feel toward the CD, I think. Right after "Living For the Night" Strait goes back into high gear with the bluesy rocker song "Some Kind of Crazy". When listening to the song I kind of heard Ronnie Dunn in my head...like something he and Kix Brooks would have recorded. That song apparently was written and published originally in 2002.
This is music you'd expect on a CD called TWANG...and given that there's a Tex-Mex fringe in country music, it makes sense that Texas-born George Strait would bring in that style every now and then. I even think the word 'twang' in some circles is used as a symbol of musical pride in and around south Texas...there once was a magazine called Twang as well...which had a more Texas country music feel to it.
"Out of Sight, Out of Mind" will have a long-time fan thinking of the mid 1980's George Strait because it has a sound that is mostly identified with that era of his career. It's a nice ballad and written by George and his son.
Meanwhile, "Arkansas Dave" is a mysterious story song about a killer. George usually doesn't sing story songs like this...this is like something you'd might find on a Tom T Hall or a Dave Dudley album but it was written by George's son, Bubba, who helped write three other songs on the CD including the big hit "Living For the Night".
I really think "He's Got That Something Special" could be a single as well...it's one of the songs George co-wrote, too. That song may in fact be his next single...then in early 2010 "I Gotta Get To You" may be another single...but that's just my speculation.
The tempo picks up super fast on "Hot Grease and Zydeco" which sounds like it'll be a concert sing-a-long...it's one of the songs with a lot of production, which is lacking on a lot of the other songs. He closes out the English speaking portion of the CD with the Merle Haggard-like "Beautiful Day For Goodbye" which has a somber feel.
I do want to say that everyone seems to be talking about the final song, "El Rey". It's in Spanish...I don't understand the song. First of all, though, hearing him sing Spanish is quite unique and I feel it was placed on the CD simply because of Tex-Mex is part of the music scene down there in Texas and so it fits...but it is certainly unusual for a George Strait CD. I don't think he'll be putting on any other Spanish songs on future CD's. I assume he put it on there for shock value of some kind...since the fans nor critics would have predicted the inclusion of the song. It has a 1971 copyright and I'm not familiar with it's origins. I just know that it's rather unique and for those who purchase the whole CD or those who buy one song at a time, give a listen to the "El Rey" performance...although I don't have a clue what he's saying, the music in the background is catchy. I think radio stations that are playing this song are doing so out of curiosity...some may find it amusing, too, that George sings Spanish. Whatever the case, it's a neat little performance.
"El Rey" and "Some Kind of Crazy" represent the only songs without a 2009 copyright.
Off-topic: George isn't the only mainstream country artist to perform songs in another language. Freddy Fender became popular for inserting the Spanish and Mexican languages into his recordings. Conway Twitty at one time recorded "Hello Darlin" in Russian. He did the recording in 1975 for NASA. It's on his box set. But because it's George Strait and all of his albums carry a consistent formula, it's a big news story when he departs from what is expected or, in other words, predicted from critics.
The CD fold-out features lyrics...and pictures of George. As soon as you open up the CD case you'll see a picture of George with a big grin standing next to a vehicle with a guitar sitting in the front seat. The centerfold is a black and white picture of George leaning up against the car in front of the Gruene Hall. I take it that they wanted to convey a grass-roots feel as to why so many pictures are in black and white and of objects. There's even a close up picture of a cactus in the fold-out cover.
All in all it's a great George Strait album if I do say so myself. Longtime and hard-core fans will I think treasure the album...and for those who pay a bit more attention to who wrote what they'll be glad to see the likes of Dean Dillon, Jim Lauderdale, and Steve Bogard listed as songwriter's on several of the songs...and George himself being credited as a co-writer on three songs is the icing on the cake for those who pay attention to who wrote what.
My prediction is that after "Living for the Night" reaches it's peak, they'll follow it up with "I Gotta Get To You", "He's Got That Something Special", and maybe a fourth single? Perhaps "Out of Sight, Out of Mind"...it's hard to tell...but "I Gotta Get To You" has got to be a single at some point. It has "hit song" written all over it.
"The Breathe You Take" is a beautiful song about savoring the important moments in life. "Same Kind Of Crazy" is an interesting song about clicking with that special someone. The title track is a three minute party. It is a very fun song. "El Rey" is a great song that George sings in Spanish. I don't understand a word of it, but I love it. The violins are a nice touch on this track. "Where Have I Been All My Life" is a song about how things change over time. "He's Got That Something Special" is a song that makes me think of all the girls I have loved and lost. "Beautiful Day For Goodbye" is a heartwrenching song about a woman who leaves her husband. I love this new album by George Strait.