Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties: George Strait, “Round About Way”

“Round About Way”

George Strait

Written by Steve Dean and Wil Nance

Billboard

#1 (2 weeks)

March 7 – March 14, 1998

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

March 6, 1998

George Strait pulls four No. 1 singles from one album.

The Road to No. 1

Carrying Your Love With Me was awarded the CMA for Album of the Year in 1997, the third of five Strait albums to win that trophy.  It also holds the distinction of being the only Strait album to produce four No. 1 hits.

The No. 1

One of the great ironies of this era was that while so many young hat acts were running the early nineties formula into the ground, their elders were reinvigorating what traditional country music could sound like.

“Round About Way” is a fresh burst of energy, leaning heavily into Western Swing to power the track.   That style has a long history of livening up country radio playlists at least once every generation, and Strait harnessed the sound more effectively for mainstream radio than any artist before or since.

The song was already cleverly written, and Strait delivers its emotional twists without breaking a sweat.  He can alternate between the cockiness of “I don’t love her anymore” and the desperation of “I still miss her so much” in the same line reading.

Once again, he delivers a master class in phrasing, which has separated him from his imitators for four decades and counting.

The Road From No. 1

George Strait has two more No. 1 singles on the way in 1998, both from his next studio album.

“Round About Way” gets an A.

 

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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2 Comments

  1. I remember critics lamenting how challenging it was to review Strait albums during this era. In many ways one album blurred with the next but they were always remarkably strong and insanely consistent. Each always had a stand-out track or stellar and vocal performance

    I feel the same way commenting about his singles in this feature. What can you about the King of Country music at the top of game? That he is, really, really good?

    Strait is great!

  2. For me, this is one of the most fun singles that Strait has ever released! I’ve loved it ever since it was all over the radio in early 1998, and it’s still one of my personal top favorites of his and my favorite single from the Carrying Your Love With Me album.

    Strait’s playful delivery and unique phrasing is everything here, and it just sounds like he was having the time of his life recording it. And as you’ve mentioned, I love how he effortlessly goes from sounding playfully cocky and confident in the verses when he’s out with his buddies and taking her picture down, to actually sounding like he’s missing her all over again in the chorus “when midnight rolls around.” Even the chorus’ quirky, “descending” melody is sort of like hearing the narrator’s regression every night. I also love the totally cool steel guitar part that plays the main melody at the very start and after each chorus. I hear Buck Owens, George Jones, and even some Merle Haggard influences all over this record, and I love how artists like Strait were making fun, traditional ditties like this seem fresh and new all over again in the late 90’s. And they sounded just as great for the honky tonks as they did in a more urban setting. Thankfully, the line dance craze was mostly in the rearview mirror by this time, and we were starting to get more quality uptempo songs from male artists again. It’s just hard to believe that it was only in 1998 that you could still turn on the radio and be able to hear something this cool AND traditional.

    The first time I heard and really enjoyed “Round About Way” was on yet another weekday afternoon after my dad had picked me up from school and took me out to grab a bite to eat. We were just arriving back to my house when it came on 93.3 WFLS, and I remember instantly falling in love with its upbeat honky tonk sound, its unique and cool melody, and Strait’s playful performance. Just a little earlier on the way back home, we also heard them play Daryle Singletary’s “The Note,” which I was also really enjoying as I was trying to put what little was left of my cherry Chapstick on my lips. While “Round About Way” was playing as we sat in the driveway, I excitedly told Dad, “They’re playing some really good songs today!” Of course, we got to hear and enjoy it on several more of those afternoons after school. :)

    “Round About Way” is also another song that instantly takes me back to the great times from late 1997 and early 1998 when my parents and I went to Fair Oaks Mall in Fairfax, VA every Sunday and when I was totally addicted to playing the latest hot Nintendo 64 game, Diddy Kong Racing. It especially reminds me of when I used to spend a lot of time in the Sears’ lower level in Fair Oaks playing Diddy Kong Racing in the store’s kids clothes section. There was also a nice little computer/video game store nearly all the way on the other end of the mall’s lower level where I’d also play the same game. :) Like Sammy Kershaw’s “Love Of My Life,” Anita and Steve’s “What If I Said,” and Tim McGraw’s “Just To See You Smile,” “Round About Way” was another one of the songs we’d usually hear on the radio in the car either on the way to the mall or on the way back home (or sometimes both!). And also like those other three songs, “Round About Way” would sometimes get stuck in my head while wandering around the mall. :)

    A couple other non-number ones that immediately come to mind that take me back to the days of going to Fair Oaks and playing Diddy Kong Racing are Lila McCann’s “I Wanna Fall In Love” and Lee Ann Womack’s “You’ve Got To Talk To Me.”

    “Round About Way” was also another song that just sounded great coming out of my clock radio in my bedroom during the cold winter nights in early 1998. I especially enjoyed hearing it on almost every Saturday night on Chris Charles’ Weekly Country Countdown, along with the other songs mentioned above, plus Alan Jackson’s “A House With No Curtains.” “Round About Way” would even occasionally get in my head during some of my classes in the 6th grade. I particularly remember it going through my head one time just before my 5th period math class while me and some of my classmates were waiting outside the classroom.

    Unfortunately, “Round About Way” ended up being another one of Strait’s late 90’s singles that got very little to no recurrent airplay after its chart run was done. Even today, it seems like one of his more underrated and/or forgotten songs. I never forgot it though, and I continued to enjoy it after finding a used copy of the Carrying Your Love With Me album in the mid 2000’s. And when we were going to Fair Oaks Mall as late as 2016-2017, it was still one of the first songs I’d always think of, and of course, I had it on the playlist I listened to whenever I was there. Heck, I even got to enjoy it one last time at the Texas Roadhouse one night while we were at the location in York, Pennsylvania around 2015-2016ish, just before they removed all 90’s country from their jukeboxes. Man, it sounded so good blasting loudly through the speakers on that crowded night! :D

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