By: Chuck Dauphin
George Strait has been doing what he does for quite some time – and really, does anyone do it better? You look at his legacy of influence on the format and just about every artist that has come along since he broke with “Unwound” back in 1981, and you see that he has a career pretty much unequaled. That being said, I think there have been times the past few years where the singer has released some records to radio that were made solely to get airplay. Granted, how do you compete with “Ocean Front Property” or “The Chair?” That’s an impossible task. But, at least to my ears, the singles from the past few albums just seemed a little lacking. (Now, the album cuts are another story. “A Showman’s Life” and “When The Credits Roll” stand high among anything he has ever recorded.)
That all being said, Cold Beer Conversation sounds like you could place it right in the middle of If You Ain’t Lovin, You Ain’t Livin and Beyond The Blue Neon – two of his most satisfying discs. (I won’t call them the best, because picking one George Strait album is tough.) In fact, the title cut has that familiar Strait sound of those records. It’s as country as anything you’re going to hear – or not hear these days. But, listening to this makes me beam with pride about being a Country Music fan. Jamey Johnson’s “Something Goin’ Down” could have been an alternate cut off of Pure Country with its’ dramatic flair, and “Wish You Well” reminds me of the music that Country Radio played in the 1980s. I don’t know if we’ll ever see things that good again. This song serves as a reminder of that sound. I can imagine him on the stage, with his hand on top of the guitar with about 15,000 people singing along.
There are also some other familiar themes on this album. “It Takes All Kinds” is pure Western Swing, something we haven’t heard from Strait in a while, and he taps into his inspirational side on the beautiful “Even When I Can’t Feel It,” which is all about keeping your faith – even in the tougher times. He pays homage to the Lone Star State with Shane McAnally and Brandy Clark’s “Take Me To Texas,” which benefits from the writers’ sense of historical perspective.
There’s also a lot of pure fun moments here, as well. “Goin’, Goin’, Gone” and “Cheaper Than A Shrink” will no doubt get your toe tapping, while “Stop and Drink” will make you laugh a little bit with some of it’s ironic lyrics.
And, then there’s “Everything I See,” which is a tribute to his father, who passed away in June 2013. It’s a rare look into the personal world of Strait, who keeps a veil of mystery around his down-home persona. Of all the songs that he has had a hand in writing, this one by far is the best. Quite possibly Song of the Year material for 2016 if it gets released as a single.
I hope radio greets this release with the respect that it should. At age 63, Strait is still making some of the best traditional music out there, and this one deserves to be heard. Not that you would expect anything “Bro-Country” from Strait. That just might go against his Cowboy cred! Easily his best album since It Just Comes Natural…