Cold Beer Conversation
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
George Strait has released a new album that is consistently good, with strong vocal performances that elevate even the middling material.
Cold Beer Conversation is Strait’s 29th studio album, and it follows the template that he switched to a few years ago as his albums moved away from a yearly release cycle. Thirteen songs, with a handful of them co-written by Strait and his son, Bubba. Enough to tide his fans over until the next one, but nothing in particular that would expand his listening base.
That being said, the album is very listenable, and has a couple of tracks that are worthy of inclusion in any Strait best-of collection. The very best is one of those George and Bubba co-writes, “Everything I See.” It is a powerful tribute to his late father, where he shares the wish that he’d slipped a cell phone in his suit before they laid him in the ground, just so he could send him updates from down here.
It’s classic Strait: touching without being cloying, tinged with melancholy but laced with optimism. If you’re like me and think that “You’ll Be There” is his best single this century, download “Everything I See,” even if you pass on the whole album this time around.
Other highlights include lead single, “Let it Go,” which manages to capture the spirit of the best Jimmy Buffett songs, rather than just capturing the sound. The title track is a solid barroom anthem, as are “Cheaper Than a Shrink” and “Stop and Drink.”
I also found “Rock Paper Scissors” to be a creative and amusing breakup number, though his delivery borrows a little too heavily from “Give it Away” for it to stand up on its own right.
The rest of the album is carried mostly by Strait’s sophistication and maturity as a vocalist. The lyrics aren’t always interesting or well-crafted, but he’s such a great singer that he leaves you thinking, “Well, it must be substantial because listen to how he’s singing it.”
I’m still waiting for him to make one truly great album where he has to rise to the challenge of the material, rather than relying on his own skills to elevate much of it. I know he’s got it in him. Maybe next time out?
Recommended Tracks: “Everything I See,” “Let it Go,” “Cheaper Than a Shrink”