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George Strait

Somewhere Down in Texas – 2005 (MCA Nashville)

Reviewed by Eli Messinger

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CDs by George Strait

After the career highlight of 2003's "Honkytonkville," George Strait's follow-up is a surprisingly subdued and introspective collection dominated by ballads and mid-tempo waltzes. Strait is an accomplished and moving ballad singer, but the bouncing, train-rhythmed "High Tone Woman" might leave some listeners pining for a few more upbeat selections.

Now in his 50s, Strait has found a more contemplative place from which to pick songs, including the afterlife imaginings of "You'll Be There" the funereal end-of-romance "Ready for the End of the World" and the story of a jilted wife's reawakening, "She Let Herself Go." On the lighter side there's a breezy cover of Merle Haggard's "The Seashores of Old Mexico" and the satisfied slice of life, "A Perfect Day."

Strait's roots show on the latest love-song to his home state, "Texas," and the nostalgic, "If the Whole World Was a Honky Tonk." None of this is particularly new, but the confidence with which Strait picks, arranges and sings his material displays a craft and consistency few other contemporary artists can match. Fans will toast this 28th LP, and those just getting their first taste will quickly want to find more!