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George Strait

It Just Comes Natural – 2006 (MCA Nashville)

Reviewed by Michael Sudhalter

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CDs by George Strait

Everything's bigger in Texas, so it's a wonder why a famous Texan like George Strait took so long to release a studio album with 15 songs. But the wait was worth it as Strait comes through with his best studio album since "Carrying Your Love With Me" of 1997.

Strait, the neotraditional standard-bearer, returns to traditional country, beginning with the spoken introduction, done-me-wrong theme of "Give It Away." The highlight of the album, however, is "Why Can't I Leave Here Alone," about a man trying to come to terms with a failed relationship. Strait is often faulted for singing without emotion, but on this tune you can feel the character's pain. The crooner also takes a chance and wins with Guy Clark's "Texas Cookin'" and a waltz "Come on Joe" about a widower thinking about what his wife would tell him.

"She Told Me So" is a ballad, but it's lyrically similar to Strait's hit "Ocean Front Property," and "How 'Bout Them Cowgirls" is a pleasant, mid-tempo tribute to cowgirls.

Although the focus of the album is ballads and traditional country, Strait delves into mid-tempo pop country with the title track and "One Foot in Front of the Other." Luckily for true country fans, Strait is recording the type of music that made him a legend.