Vanessa Gavalya
Whitney Pastorek
August 05, 2009 AT 04:00 AM EDT


Current Status
In Season
George Strait

We gave it a B

Listening to George Strait put his hallowed voice through its paces on yet another album of immaculately recorded tracks, it’s clear that Twang will inevitably top the country charts, yield approximately three hit singles, and sell upwards of a million copies — just like the ageless Texan’s done nearly every year since 1981. Even though the Strait formula is now carved in granite — compact lyrics, good-natured tone, don’t forget the fiddle — his hearty baritone calls the converted back every single time. As King George himself once sang: It just comes natural.

Why, then, is Strait’s 26th studio album worth a casual fan’s investigation? Because he continues to define (and refine) his genre, and he does it with such ease. Because he knows exactly how to stretch his Wrangler-clad legs without spooking the herd, most vividly here by kicking up his heels on Delbert McClinton’s ”Same Kind of Crazy” and flinging himself into a full-throated and faithful interpretation of mariachi standard ”El Rey” en español. And because he’s taken a hands-on approach for the first time since 1982, co-writing three of these tracks alongside his son, Bubba: the lackadaisical lead single ”Living for the Night,” a lonesome two-step called ”Out of Sight Out of Mind,” and the clever chorus twist of ”He’s Got That Something Special.” Do these self-penned songs explode like bottle rockets in the vast West Texas sky? No. They sound like George Strait songs, of course. But look, the dude’s cut 57 No. 1 hits. Would you change your tune? B

Download This: Listen to the song El Rey on the artist’s MySpace

See all of this week’s reviews

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