With as many hit songs and albums as George Strait has had in his career, he could be forgiven if he coasts and just releases the same album repeatedly. Maybe it seems like he's done just that from time to time. But giving credit where credit is due, Strait has decided to start listening to his songwriting muse, 30 years into his recording career, and his latest album shows the fruits of his labor. Of the 11 songs, Strait had a hand in writing 7 of them - most often with Dean Dillon and son Bubba.
For the most part, this album sounds like vintage Strait - the title track and Shame on Me could have been number one hits for him back in the day, and they still could be if radio is willing to include an actual country song among the pop ballads and chest-thumping rock songs. Strait also lets his hair down with a couple of goofy tunes in Lone Star Blues and Blue Marlin Blues. Putting both songs on the album may be considered overkill, but both stand up to repeated listening, and it's nice to hear Strait goofing around like he did in The Fireman.
When he does go outside of the family for songs, Strait picks from the best, including Chuck Cannon and Allen Shamblin (Poison) and Al Anderson and Chris Stapleton (Love's Gonna Make It Alright). All are solid songs, and Poison in particular is a stunner.
Strait also takes on Jesse Winchester's A Showman's Life, a poignant take on the drawbacks of being a professional singer. Not only does he make the often-covered song his own, he also provides the perfect contrast to it. I'll Always Remember You is a thank-you directly from Strait to his fans for their 30-year love affair. Strait's spoken-word monologue is as good a farewell as one could write, though he makes it clear he's not retiring yet. That sentiment is something that only could have come from Strait's pen (with Bubba and Dillon's help) and still retain that sincerity. The three make for a good tandem
Drinkin' Man and Three Nails and a Cross come across as a little heavy-handed in their message - the drinkin' man in question got his start when he was a 14-year-old drinkin' boy. Still, for the most part, "Here for a Good Time" is essentially filler free and should put an end to any doubts that Strait is just phoning it in.
The only people who may dislike this development in Strait's career are the songwriters in Nashville. For years, getting a George Strait cut has been a major achievement, but if he keeps up with his songwriting, those opportunities are going to be few and far between.