What is it about George Strait that makes it so easy to pour your favorite beverage, press “Play” on the remote and nod along with every song? Thirty-nine studio albums in, it’s apparent that the 59-year-old Country Music Hall of Famer is as sharp as ever when it comes to crafting vivid story-songs that command the listener’s attention long after the album’s over. On Here For A Good Time, King George mixes lighthearted carpe diem with heartbreaking tragedy to create another “classic Strait” record.
George co-wrote seven of the album’s 11 songs, sharing most of the songwriting credits with son Bubba and writing partner Dean Dillon. This is the same lineup responsible for George’s Top 10 radio hit, “Living For The Night,” off his most recent record, Twang. The first single off the new album, title-track and current Top 15 radio song “Here For A Good Time,” is an optimistic, uptempo tune written by the trio that serves as a call to get up, get the party going and live like there’s no tomorrow. When I’m gone put it in stone, ‘He left nothing behind’/ I ain’t here for a long time/ I’m here for a good time, George sings with infectious energy. On “Blue Marlin Blues,” a tongue-in-cheek tale about being unable to haul in that elusive catch, a funky vocal melody is paired with traditional country instrumentation as George reels off, Seven hours later we still ain’t caught a thing/ Mood on this boat sure has changed. George’s smooth voice is at ease as he twists and turns through the line with an engrossing and accessible rhythm.
The songs on Here For A Good Time lean mostly traditional with a heavy dose of twang. “Lone Star Blues” kicks off with fiery fiddle and popping percussion before throwing in shout-outs to Texas landmarks like the famous Billy Bob’s Texas honky tonk in Fort Worth. I lost my wrist watch and my boots shootin’ dice with a dude from Houston, George sings, taking the listener on a lively, hard luck tour of Texas. The neo-traditional “Shame On Me,” with weeping pedal steel guitar, sounds like the jukebox soundtrack to a night spent alone at the local watering hole. I thought I won your heart, but you were still in love with him, George sings with quintessential honky tonk aching.
The album’s most powerful songs are those that deal with the darkest themes. “Drinkin’ Man,” (written by G. Strait, B. Strait and Dillon) is a poignant look at a life of alcoholism. The storytelling is nothing less than gripping as it begins with a 14-year-old getting drunk in the morning. Over soft acoustic picking, open guitar chords and dramatic percussion, George lays it all out there, I look into the mirror/ Bottle in my hand/ I’d like to pour it out/ I just don’t think I can, while he presents snapshots from the character’s life. “Poison,” atmospheric with reverb-heavy guitars, discusses the various vices to which we can all succumb. Here, George sings with a hint of despair, You can learn to love anything, even a bird in a cage’ll sing a song.
The album’s closing song, “I’ll Always Remember You,” is a heartfelt, open letter to his fans. It’s the most strikingly reflective song on the collection as it looks specifically at George’s storied career. I’m not saying I’m through by any means, he sings on the ballad, but the humble sentiment that he understands all his fans have given him is clear. After 30 years, George’s finest “Thank You” back to them is his steady devotion to his craft and ability to provide the level of quality his fans expect.