Album Review: George Strait — Here For a Good Time

Juli Thanki | September 7th, 2011

george strait here for a good time coverWe can rely on three things in life: death, taxes, and George Strait.

He is country music’s Old Faithful, turning out quality albums at regular intervals for the past three decades. Surprises are rare as wrinkles in his starched button-downs. Here for a Good Time, his 26th studio album, is another in a long line of solid releases. What separates this record from previous efforts is the amount of Strait originals: he and son Bubba had a hand in seven of the album’s eleven tracks; six of those were co-written with longtime Strait songsmith Dean Dillon. The trio makes a good team, whether they’re writing about the tortured history of a “Drinkin’ Man” set to crying fiddle, the lost love depicted in “House on the Bay” or the goofy, groovy tale of “Blue Marlin Blues.”

Though he seems to rarely play the guitar in his hands at live shows, Strait remains a talented picker—of material, that is. The easygoing, mid-tempo opener “Love’s Gonna Make It Alright” (an Al Anderson/Chris Stapleton song) sounds as though it could be on any of his chart-topping 1990s albums, while “Poison,” penned by Chuck Cannon and Allen Shamblin, is arguably the album’s best-written song, though the arrangement becomes plodding upon repeated listens. Here, Strait sings about the enjoyable-yet-dangerous elements of life: whiskey and razor-tongued women, coming to the conclusion that “Anything can bring you pleasure/Even pain/Pick your poison.” His cover of “A Showman’s Life,” which features Faith Hill, is another song in this vein, noting that stardom—despite its pleasures, financial and otherwise—comes with a number of hardships that cause “wear and tear on an old honky tonker’s heart.”

Closing out the album is “I’ll Always Remember You,” which, in conjunction with “A Showman’s Life,” feels a bit like a farewell as Strait thanks his fans for their support these past three decades. Thankfully, he makes sure to reassure any worried listeners by singing, in that instantly recognizable voice, “I’m not saying I’m through by any means.” That’s King George, reliable as always.

3.5 Stars

  1. Jeremy Dylan
    September 7, 2011 at 8:34 am

    Another lovely version of A Showman’s Life. That song has been extremely well treated as a cover song – first by Buddy Miller, then Gary Allan and Willie Nelson, now King George.

    Of course, props are due to Tony Brown also. He is the Nelson Riddle to Strait’s Frank Sinatra.

  2. Ben Foster
    September 7, 2011 at 8:59 am

    I really enjoyed this album. “Love’s Gonna Make It Alright” wasn’t particularly outstanding, but I thought it was a nice enjoyable way to kick off the album. I really liked the arrangement on “Poison.” I thought it really added to the impact of the song’s lyrics.

    “A Showman’s Life” was another favorite of mine, party because of Faith Hill’s contribution. And of course, I still love the title track.

  3. nm
    September 7, 2011 at 11:53 am

    I often get the feeling that people are covering Buddy Miller’s version of “A Showman’s Life” and have never heard Jesse Winchester’s. Not that covering Miller’s version is wrong (it’s a gorgeous version itself), but it throws me.

  4. Bobby Peacock
    September 7, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    Ha. I’m not the only one who noticed he never freaking plays that guitar. Good eye, Juli.

  5. luckyoldsun
    September 7, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    I’m always amazed at how Strait can keep coming back to the top after his contempraries–and one or two generations of his successors–are mostly washed up.

    I’d bet that he’s had his last solo #1, but he’s surprised me before.

    Offhand, George Strait and Eddy Arnold are the only Hall of Famers that I can think of who’ve had #1 hits after being inducted.

  6. luckyoldsun
    September 7, 2011 at 5:04 pm

    (And I’m not talking about situations like Willie Nelson in “Beer for My Horses” where a H-o-F’er gets a #1 by guesting on a duet with a contemporary star.)

  7. Josh
    September 7, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    Wow. This is the album of the year so far to me. Start to finish, one of Strait’s best in a long time, in my opinion.

    It’s cool to hear him writing songs, and actually writing them well – they have a timeless kind of feel (you can tell how much his songwriting has been influenced by his go-to songwriters over the years), and it’s kind of cool to hear The King actually open up to us after all these decades of being awesome but sort-of-distant. Plus, his voice and phrasing is as great as it’s ever been.

    I have a feeling this might not produce as many #1s as we’re accustomed to from GS, because it’s mostly a collection of ballads and 90’s-style country songs, which aren’t very welcome on the radio right now. But it’s certainly a nice listen for me.

    BTW, I can’t believe “Shame On Me” isn’t a Lauderdale song. I was 99.999% sure until I looked it up!

  8. Josh
    September 7, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    Lucky – I was sort of thinking the same. This album (for the most part) kind of feels like a departure from the radio-chasing, lighter stuff that he’s included on a lot of his albums this decade to just saying “I’ve had a great commercial career, and I’m going to do what I love from here on out.”

    Maybe “this is where the cowboy rides away”… (from the mainstream, at least!)

  9. Mike Wimmer
    September 7, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    “Poison” is indeed the stand out track here. “Drinking Man” is quite good as well.

    Overall the album is solid, the upbeat tracks are pretty forgettable, but that’s offset by some of the darker tracks which are some of the best songs George has recorded recently.

    I will say though, while his version of “A Showman’s Life” is good, it stale ranks significantly behind the Gary Allan/Willie Nelson version which remains the best.

  10. Leeann Ward
    September 7, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    This is one fine album.

  11. the pistolero
    September 7, 2011 at 7:25 pm

    Yeah, this is one really good album. In fact I think I’d rank it No. 2 behind It Just Comes Natural on the list of Strait releases from the new millennium. I have to say I was underwhelmed by “Love’s Gonna Make It Alright” — which came across as more than a little generic and trite — but the rest of it is classic Strait. (More songs like “Shame On Me” and fewer like LGMIA!)

    And yeah, he nailed “A Showman’s Life.” I was curious to see how it’d sound after having heard the Gary Allan version, and it was amazingly good. Like, favorite song on the album good. The vocals on that song are some of the finest Strait’s ever laid down. I heard that song and “Lone Star Blues” and thought, “Wow, the cowboy’s still got some tricks up his sleeve.”

    “I’ll Always Remember You” really caught me by surprise. For some strange and unknown reason I thought it might come across as mawkish and trite — and in the hands of a lesser artist that kind of song might have done just that. I am not ashamed to admit I had to fight back the tears when he went into that spoken-word interlude.

    Here’s hoping that cowboy doesn’t ride away any time soon.

  12. Barry Mazor
    September 7, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    The Gary Alan definitely had that Buddy Miller arrangement/influence mentioned it’s a little bit “whispering down the lane..” All good though, IMHO…

  13. Rick
    September 7, 2011 at 9:15 pm

    George’s newer music has been boring me to death for years. On the other hand I wouldn’t mind if George would start recording some of the great songs penned by Lane Turner so Lane could earn some decent money for a change! Go ahead George, spread the wealth around to truly deserving talents just for the fun of it. Sheesh.

  14. J.R. Journey
    September 7, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    I’m with Leeann: This is one fine album.

    “Poison” is the knockout track for me too. I think it’s the best song Strait has recorded since his “Give It Away”. Also digging “Drinkin’ Man” and “I’ll Always Remember You” a lot too.

  15. Matt Bjorke
    September 8, 2011 at 1:14 am

    “Poison” is poised to be a single at some point too, so hopefully radio will play it. I’ve had Chuck Cannon’s superb “God Shaped Hole” album for a few years now and “Poison” is a highlight there as well and Strait largely left well enough alone.

  16. Ben Foster
    September 8, 2011 at 8:51 am

    I didn’t know that, but that’s cool. I’d be curious to see how it’s received at radio. I found it pretty hard to guess what the singles might be on this album, but “Love’s Gonna Make It Alright” seemed pretty radio-friendly, or I could also see them going with “Drinkin’ Man.” I would also love to see “A Showman’s Life” released, but I’m a little more doubtful on that one.

  17. Josh
    September 10, 2011 at 2:26 am

    Ahhh, I realized which Lauderdale-penned Strait song “Shame On Me” sounds so much like – “She Used To Say To Me”!

  18. Bambi
    September 10, 2011 at 7:48 am

    I don’t really hear it with “Shame on Me” and “She Used To Say That to Me”

    Call me crazy, but to me, “Love’s Gonna Make it Alright” has a kind of Phil Collins vibe on the chorus more so.

    This is definitely my fav album since It Just Comes Natural, though nothing quite stands out as “Give It Away” did.

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