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George Strait

The Cowboy Rides Away: Live From AT&T Stadium – 2014 (MCA Nashville)

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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CDs by George Strait

George Strait has been one of the most dependable country music stars for three decades. In this day and age, the Texan is a certifiable throwback. He's low key, not a self-promoter. All's he has done is churn out hit after hit for decade after decade. He has not been the kind of artist who put his finger up in the air either or trading his cowboy hat for a baseball cap. When looking up the definition of traditional country, George Strait sits at the top.

Strait tackles 20 songs on his finale concert from June 7, 2014 at AT&T Stadium in Dallas. Strait covers a wide range of hits from throughout his career, starting with "Fool Hearted Memory," his first number 1 in 1982 on which Jason Aldean helps out.

Strait employed a bunch of friends to help out, including Vince Gill on "The Love Bug," Miranda Lambert, who once toured with him, on "Run," Kenny Chesney on "Ocean Front Property" and Eric Church, who offers a good take on "Cowboys Like Us." So does Martina McBride on "Jackson." About Strait's only main rival for the king of traditional country, Alan Jackson, helps on their hit "Murder on Music Row," which about sizes up where Strait has been musically all of these years.

Whether he really needed any help was doubtful because at 62, Strait's singing sounds about as good as ever. He offers a relaxed singing style, completely comfortable on the ballads (a superb rendering of "The Chair") as he does on the more uptempo. Strait certainly doesn't turn in a paint-by-the-numbers performance and, of course, with 60 number 1 hits, he's going to leave out a lot of hits ("Amarillo By Morning," "I Cross My Heart," "Heartland," "Blue Clear Sky" and many many more). In fact, he offered a newer song ("I'll Always Remember You") that had special meaning for him instead.

Strait intersperses the songs with some banter, including how his son sent him the song "Arkansas Dave" and the background on "Marina Del Rey" with strings helping out.

While not an earth shattering release, this is more like a fitting tribute to someone who has made a huge difference on the musical landscape. Fittingly, Strait ends with "Troubadour" ("I'll be an old troubadour when I'm gone"), the two stepping "All My Ex's Live in Texas" and usual concert closer "The Cowboy Rides Away." In one sense - if Strait stays true to his word, yes, he is going away (although he does quote Arnold Schwarzenegger with "I'll be back") - but, in reality, of course, his music will remain forever. And with such a long litany of quality hits and staying power, King George rides away having made his mark in a genre where the music has drastically changed. Long live King George!