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Mike Sudhalter  |  April 3, 2008

I can't remember the last time so many good albums were released on the same day, and I haven't heard all of the April Fools Day releases. I have, however, heard those from Aaron Watson, George Strait and Josh Gracin.

The first album is a Texas traditionalist flirting with mainstream country, the second is a legend going strong for over a quarter-century and the latter, a pop-country artist looking to find his identity after a semi-successful first album.

Watson released two additional "album only" songs on itunes, and I like both of them - from what I heard on the snippets - but I'm not about to dish out 10 bucks for two songs. What do you think of country artists covering pop songs?. That's what Watson did with John Mayer's "Heart of Life.

Nashville's got to take notice of this guy sooner or later, but the question is will this traditional Texan be willing to change or adapt for Music Row. I hope not, because then we'll just be pining for the old days. Pat Green fans, you know what I mean.

Watson has mastered all types of country songs from the traditional to the contemporary - trucker songs, ballads, hurtin' songs, sentimental songs about wild and outta control love.

Strait just gets better with time, and his new album is proof of that. "Troubadour" is really a cool song about a guy who still loves to enjoy having fun - it gives me hope that I can enjoy a good ole honky-tonkin' time until I'm an old-timer.

I love the fact that Strait, for the first time I know, mentioned 'Boston' in a song. He did so in "Brothers Of The Highway," a song about trucker drivers; he name-checks the cities that they visit and/or drive through. I can't recall Strait doing a trucker song in the past, but that's not to say he hasn't. If its his first, it's about time. Remember the good ole days, when country singers like Red Sovine and Red Simpson recorded entire albums of truckin' albums.

"It Was Me" is a classic Strait ballad, and he steps a little out of character for "House of Cash", the duet with Patty Loveless, which is about the house fire that destroyed the home of the late Johnny Cash and June Carter.

What's up with all the Cash/Carter songs in contemporary country? See what you started, Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon. Watson's "Angels and Outlaws", he said, is loosely based on the life of Cash/Carter, and then former Trick Pony lead singer Heidi Newfield released a new single recently, "Johnny and June."

It's good to see that Strait has noticed the phenomenon of independent Texas Country music. He covered Guy Clark's "Texas Cookin'" on his last album, and recorded the swinger "West Texas Town", co-written by Robert Earl Keen on this one.

As for Gracin, I like his version of "Telluride", better than the one Tim McGraw recorded nearly a decade ago. Wow, it's amazing that it's been that long. And it's about time that "Favorite State of Mind" got on an album, but do Canadian DJs have to write it down as "Favourite State of Mind." That would be funny.

:: Posted at 2:40 AM by Mike Sudhalter ::
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