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article imageReview: George Strait back with 'Cold Beer Conversation'

By Adrian Peel     Oct 17, 2015 in Music
"King" George has released his first new studio album since 2013's "Love Is Everything," proving that despite giving up touring, his recorded output remains as prolific as ever.
In September 2012, George Strait announced he was quitting the road after more than 30 years of non-stop touring, stating that his 2013/2014 run The Cowboy Rides Away would be his last. He was quick to point out, however, that he intended to carry on recording and also made it clear he would still be doing the odd show.
The 63-year-old record breaker, inducted into The Country Music Hall of Fame in 2006, certainly seems to have kept his promise to carry on making music as Cold Beer Conversation is his second album of new material in as many years and his 29th overall.
In 2014, a year that turned out to be a pretty busy one, he also put out a live CD, The Cowboy Rides Away: Live from at &T Stadium, and a Christmas compilation entitled A Holiday Collection.
Cold Beer Conversation, released on September 25 and produced by Strait and Chuck Ainlay, begins with "It Was Love," an at times fairly boisterous song that I can imagine being a big hit on today's country radio - and that's not a compliment. Much better is the second track "Cold Beer Conversation" a gorgeously laid-back number steeped in nostalgia.
Launched back in April, "Let It Go" was the album's first single. Written by Strait, his son Bubba and Keith Gattis, the song - with its chilled out vocal delivery, steel drums and handclaps - pleasantly recalls the beach-friendly vibe of Kenny Chesney and Jimmy Buffett, as well as Strait's own material of that nature, such as his 2005 take on the Merle Haggard classic "Seashores of Old Mexico."
The western swing of "Goin' Goin' Gone" keeps the party mood going and features some exquisite fiddle and steel guitar. The moving "Something Going Down" completely changes the pace before the artist's ode to his home state (penned by Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally) "Take Me to Texas" reminds us of where it all began.
Growing up near the border, George Strait has always displayed a strong Mexican influence in his work, both musically and in terms of content - something I examine in detail in my book Tequila, Señoritas and Teardrops: Musicians Discuss the Influence of Mexico on Country Music.
Here that ongoing presence can clearly be heard, thanks to the accordion on "Stop and Drink" and "Wish You Well," the latter also throwing "Mexican beers," "the border" and "dark-haired señoritas" (popular tried-and-tested themes) into the mix.
Perhaps the most inward-looking moment comes in the form of "Everything I See," one of three songs the star co-wrote, which sees him fondly recalling his father who passed away in 2013. The last track "Even When I Can't Feel It" also majestically brings out his pensive side.
In recent years George Strait albums have been a bit of a mixed bag, with the singer often accused of being on "autopilot," due to the fact that he made several of his records in the very relaxed atmosphere of Key West, Florida, at Jimmy Buffett's Shrimpboat Sound Studio.
I'm not quite sure where this one was recorded, but despite one or two less worthy tracks, it's really rather good. If I were to award it stars, I would give it four out of five. Welcome back, George!
Cold Beer Conversation is out now and can be purchased here.
More about george strait, cold beer conversation, Country music, Merle haggard, Kenny chesney
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