Tag Archives: George Strait

Retro Single Review: George Strait, "Ace in the Hole"

1989 | Peak: #1

A Western Swing spin on “The Gambler.”

Not much to say about it beyond that.  It bounces along pleasantly enough, and despite

the recycled life lessons, it still packs a little punch.

It also showcases Strait’s live sound better than most of his singles do, letting the band loose for a surprisingly long time, given the remarkably short 2:34 running time.

Fun fact: the B-side of the single was “Oh Me, Oh My, Sweet Baby”, which would be a top five hit for Diamond Rio a few years later.

Written by Dennis Adkins

Grade: B+

Next: Overnight Success

Previous: What’s Going on in  Your World




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Retro Single Review: George Strait, "What's Going On In Your World"

1989 | #1

Has the fiddle ever sounded sweeter?

George Strait’s eleventh consecutive #1 single, and seventeenth overall, is an absolutely delicious traditional country weeper.  In a classic country music scenario, Strait’s brokenhearted narrator contacts his former lover to inquire of her welfare in the time since the dissolution of their relationship.

The line “Just tell me that you’re happy, and I’ll hang up the phone” is a perfect lyrical synopsis of the

point at which the narrator has found himself.  His life alone has become hollow and unfulfilling, and the only thing he wishes is for his love to be happy – a sentiment that conveys loneliness as well as bittersweet selflessness, fully realized in Strait’s sincere, unaffected vocal delivery.

Even if the lyrics had not been so potent, “What’s Going On In Your World” would still have legs to stand as an instrumental showcase, thanks in large part to the mourful, crying fiddle that winds through the song.  It’s a testament to the ability of a compelling melody, and a simple no-frills country production to connect with deep-seated emotions, even without a word being sung.

No unnecessary bells or whistles.  Just three minutes and twenty-nine seconds of King George doing what King George does best.

Written by David Chamberlain, Royce Porter, and Red Steagall

Grade:  A

Next:  Ace In the Hole

Previous:  Baby’s Gotten Good at Goodbye


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Retro Single Review: George Strait, "Baby's Gotten Good at Goodbye"

1988 | Peak: #1

Back in the early nineties, CMT used to run videos 24/7.  It was very predictable.  Three videos, commercial break.  Three more videos, commercial break.

Occasionally, they’d do a “Triple Take”, where they’d play three videos in a row by the same artist.  It was a good way to discover an artist’s catalog.  I didn’t know “Don’t Tell Me What to Do” existed until CMT did a Triple Take for Pam Tillis, who I’d first noticed with the ridiculous video for “Put Yourself in My Place” and fell in love with when she released “Maybe it was Memphis.”

When it was an older artist like Alabama or Reba McEntire, Triple Takes could feature any number of videos stretching back several years.  But even back then, George Strait loathed making videos, and

he had only three of them in rotation by the summer of 1992, when I spent hours on end watching CMT.

The end result?  I saw the video for “Baby’s Gotten Good at Goodbye” at least a hundred times, making it a far bigger classic in my mind than it would be if my primary exposure to country music had been through radio instead of video.

This single is so closely associated with my discovery of George Strait’s music and country music as a whole that I can’t separate the experience enough to give “Baby’s Gotten Good at Goodbye” an objective evaluation.  It was my first favorite song by one of my most favorite artists, and the only one of his that I can’t listen to without picturing every frame of the video.

Seriously.  The girl with the bad eighties perm is always carrying that saddle and counting her pawn shop money in my head, every single time I listen to the record.  Which is something I still do quite often, because it’s awesome.

Written by Tony Martin and George Martin

Grade: A

Next: What’ s Going on in Your World

Previous: If You Ain’t Lovin’ (You Ain’t Livin’)



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Single Review: Alan Jackson, “You Go Your Way”

You know the country music market is in sore straits when a career-best effort from Alan Jackson dies outside the Top 20 on the charts.  It’s easy to wonder if, after more than two decades of populating country airwaves with quality material well-sung and tastefully produced, the hits may finally be drying up for Alan Jackson.  That would be a huge shame, because finely polished country tunes like current single “You Go Your Way” are becoming increasingly rare on country radio, with Jackson having been one of the last nineties veterans standing who was still able to sneak such efforts into the playlists.

In structure and theme, “You Go Your Way” bears a moderate resemblance to George Strait’s classic 1993 hit “Easy Come, Easy Go,” but with a deeper shade of heartache.  Though Jackson’s narrator at first seems to profess the same casual indifference as Strait does when watching his lover leave, he soon reveals that he’s not taking it all in stride – a fact made unmistakable by the hook “You go your way… and I’ll go crazy.”  Clever little couplets like “I poured some bourbon in a coffee cup/ It’s been too long since I drank too much”  add interest and first-person detail to the scenario without distracting from it.  He’s not so much wallowing in his sorrow as accepting it with passive resignation.

The lyric is framed in a quietly infectious melody as well as a fiddle and steel-drenched Keith Stegall arrangement that sounds absolutely fantastic.  Though we would generally expect nothing less from Alan Jackson, such work seems almost revolutionary in comparison to the warmed-over sounds that have all but taken over country radio.

Whether “You Go Your Way” will re-ignite Jackson’s radio success remains to be seen, but if not, it won’t be for lack of quality.  Though its artistry doesn’t stand quite as tall in Jackson’s catalog as “So You Don’t Have to Love Me Anymore,” “You Go Your Way” is an all-around solid record that would make a most refreshing presence on the airwaves should it find a home on country radio.

Written by Troy Jones, Tony Lane, and David Lee

Grade:  A-

Listen:  You Go Your Way


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iPod Check: Most Played Song by Twenty Country Artists

Since bringing back Recommend a Track proved so popular, I’m resurrecting another CU oldie but goodie: the iPod check.

I’ve only recently discovered the Most Played feature on iTunes, since it never had any relevance until iPods were large enough in memory to sync all of my music.   So going back to early 2011, I have a lengthy list of the songs I’ve played the most.

So today’s iP0d check:  List your most-played song from twenty different country artists.

You can access this info by going to your own Most Played list and adjusting the number of songs on it – I use 500 for mine – or you can just go to Music and sort by number of plays.  Or you can just pick twenty artists at random and list your most played song for each.  We’re easy here.  (This would also work in Spotify, from what I hear.)

Here’s my top twenty:

  1. Pam Tillis – Deep Down (89 plays)
  2. Keith Urban – I Told You So (81)
  3. Dixie Chicks – Long Time Gone (71)
  4. Taylor Swift – Mean (68)
  5. Trisha Yearwood – Where Are You Now (63)
  6. Patty Loveless – You Can Feel Bad (59)
  7. Emmylou Harris – Easy From Now On (55)
  8. Carrie Underwood – Undo It (50)
  9. Lori McKenna – Lorraine (50)
  10. Dwight Yoakam – Ain’t That Lonely Yet (46)
  11. Sara Evans – Rocking Horse (45)
  12. Sawyer Brown – Cafe on the Corner (45)
  13. Reba McEntire – The Fear of Being Alone (44)
  14. Shania Twain – Up! (43)
  15. Faith

    Hill – Stealing Kisses (41)

  16. Alan Jackson – So You Don’t Have to Love Me Anymore (40)
  17. Crystal Gayle – Why Have Your Left the One You Left Me For (39)
  18. George Strait – Meanwhile (39)
  19. Lee Ann Womack – I May Hate Myself in the Morning (39)
  20. Aaron Tippin – Whole Lotta Love on the Line (38)

I’m surprised that some of my most played artists overall, like Dolly Parton, Randy Travis, and Tim McGraw, don’t have that one big song that I play excessively.  Also, at least half of the songs above aren’t what I would call my favorite song by the given artist.  How about you?



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Retro Single Review: George Strait, "If You Ain't Lovin' (You Ain't Livin')"

1988 | Peak: #1

Strait’s fifteenth #1 single, and eighth in a row, was a cover of a #2 Faron Young hit from 1954.

It features Strait singing in such an exaggerated twang that the entire proceedings feel more campy than country.  You’re much better off sticking to the original, which is an entertaining representative of the country music from that time.

It’s a testament

to Strait’s star power that he got this to go higher on the chart the second time around, but I can’t imagine he recorded it with the idea that it was anything more than album filler.

Written by Tommy Collins

Grade: B-

Next: Baby’s Gotten Good at Goodbye

Previous:  Baby Blue



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100 Greatest Men: #41. Ronnie Milsap

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

A first class musician with R&B roots, Ronnie Milsap brought contemporary pop sophistication to the country music of his time, and it made him a superstar.

Milsap had a troubled childhood.  He was blind from birth, and the divorce of his parents left him being raised by his father and his grandparents.   While enrolled in a

school for the blind, instructors noticed his remarkable musical talent, and he began to study classical music.  With stunning precision, he learned not only violin, but piano, guitar, and several other instruments.

His attention turned to rock music, and even though he was showing great promise as a pre-law student, he decided to go the music route instead.  He first found success as an R&B singer, scoring a handful of chart hits that also grazed the pop charts.   He mostly made his rent as a session musician, most notably working on sessions with Elvis Presley.

He was so well-known in other fields that Nashville executives were surprised to find him being pitched as a country act, but he was able to integrate his various genre skills into a modern sound that was distinctively country, despite overwhelming pop and R&B overtones.  He hit quickly as a country singer, becoming one of the genre’s top acts almost out of the gate.  As the Nashville sound was going uptown, his sophisticated approach was the perfect fit.   For more than two decades, he dominated at radio and retail, along with the major award shows.

During his first wave of success in the seventies, he became the first artist to win CMA’s Male Vocalist of the Year three times, and managed to pull off the same feat in their Album category as well.  He’d win the latter category an unprecedented fourth time in in 1986, a record that stood until  George Strait won his fifth in 2008.  He also was a huge Grammy favorite, winning six, including five in the competitive Male Vocal race.

Milsap dominated at country radio to the tune of 35 #1 hits, but his blending of sounds made him appealing at pop radio as well.  By the end of the crossover era, he’d scored several pop hits, even reaching the top five with his Grammy-winning classic, “(There’s) No Gettin’ Over Me.”   While many seventies stars faded into obscurity, Milsap continued to do well at radio through the early nineties.   In recent years, he has continued to record country albums, but has also explored other genres like pop, jazz, soul, and gospel, helping to bring his musical career full circle.

Essential Singles:

  • (I’d Be) A Legend in My Time, 1974
  • Daydreams About Night Things, 1975
  • It was Almost Like a Song, 1977
  • Smoky Mountain Rain, 1980
  • (There’s) No Gettin’ Over Me, 1981
  • I Wouldn’t Have Missed it For the World, 1981
  • Any Day Now, 1982
  • Lost in the Fifties Tonight (In the Still of the Night), 1985
  • A Woman in Love, 1989

Essential Albums:

  • Pure Love, 1974
  • Night Things, 1975
  • 20/20 Vision, 1976
  • Live, 1977
  • There’s No Gettin’ Over Me, 1981
  • Inside, 1982
  • Lost in the Fifties Tonight, 1985

Next: #40. ?

Previous: #42. Porter Wagoner

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List


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Retro Single Review: George Strait, "Baby Blue"

1988 | Peak: #1

Another one of Strait’s smoothest pop Prices for propecia performances, with just enough country touches in the production to keep his traditionalist credentials intact.

It’s widely assumed that Strait was drawn to this song because of the death of his teenage daughter Jennifer in an automobile accident, which adds a bittersweet tinge to the proceedings.   But even taken literally as a love gone wrong song, it’s a beautiful piece of work.

Of the three #1 singles from the album, this is easily the best.

Written by Aaron Barker

Grade: A

Next: If You Ain’t Lovin’ (You Ain’t Livin’)

Previous: Famous Last Words of a Fool


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Single Review: Brantley Gilbert, "Kick It In the Sticks"

Brantley Gilbert originally released “Kick It In the Sticks” in 2010, and it failed to chart.  But that was before the one-two punch of number-one hits “Country Must Be Country Wide” and “You Don’t Know Her Like I Do” reversed his fortunes at radio.  In light of Gilbert’s newly heightened commercial profile, the single is being re-released for another go-round at radio.

Much has not changed.  It was a terrible song in 2010, and it’s still a terrible song now. 

Not only is it radio bait through and through, but it’s radio bait of the most grating variety.  It hits the listener over the head with blunt force, and then coughs up the usual backwoods clichés.  The production is ridiculously loud, and generally sounds plum terrible.  Gilbert isn’t even a good singer, and his performance here amounts to nothing more than his usual tuneless rasping.

It’s not fun.  It’s not catchy.  It’s not clever.  It’s not well-written.  It’s not well-produced.  It’s not well-sung.  It’s not artistry in any worthwhile form, and it sure as heck isn’t “country” – not even by 2012 standards, or by any stretch of the imagination whatsoever. (A George Strait namedrop doesn’t change that – it only makes me want to listen to Strait instead)

Can we just lay off desecrating the country music genre with crap like this?  Just for a little while?  Is that too much to ask?  The fact that the song will likely be a hit this time around hurts my heart, and helps ensure that the country radio listening experience will not start becoming less painful any time soon.

Make it stop.

Written by Brantley Gilbert, Rhett Akins, and Ben Hayslip

Grade: F

Listen:  Kick It In the Sticks


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Retro Single Review: George Strait, "Famous Last Words of a Fool"

1988 | Peak: #1

Strait previewed his eighth studio album, If You Ain't Lovin' You Ain't Livin', with a cover of a minor hit by Dean Dillon from 1983.

It's a solid song, but Strait's performance is oddly distant, and he sings it in a register that's slightly too low.  He may have hemmed to closely to Dean's original recording, which is ultimately more successful as a record than Strait's chart-topping version.

Written by Dean Dillon and Rex Houston

Grade: B-

Next: Baby Blue

Previous: Am I Blue



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