This 13 song CD is almost like an about face when compared to the previous collection, TROUBADOUR. For one thing, it's always great when a CD is kicked off with an up-tempo number. "Twang", the lead-off song and title track, is the perfect lead-off song for the CD. I do not think it will be a radio single, though. I know some have said that it could be a single but I don't know if country radio will play a song called "Twang" because of how image conscious they are...and the fact that George sounds ever so twangy while dragging out the title "twa-a-a-a-ng...". I'm just going by hunch...I don't have any real idea what country radio will play. I just know they passed on several songs from his past that didn't "sound" like something George would release. You can look up his discography list and see the singles that didn't do as well as expected. A few peaked in the Top-20 and one peaked in the Top-30 because they were a departure of what was expected.
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.