Sunday, February 21, 2010

Timeline of My Life - George Strait

As I'm sure is the case with many people, music has a way of taking me back in time. When I hear certain songs, I am instantly transported back to another time and place. Many songs by many artists have this effect. Tupac takes me back to the 10th grade. Phish...11th grade. Whiskeytown reminds me of my first year of college, and Dierks Bentley will always remind me of Ole Miss.

Few artists have been making relevant music long enough to bring back memories that span my entire life. As a matter of fact, the only one that comes to mind is George Strait. The only time in my life I would have considered him one of my top 10 favorite artists was probably around the time of Pure Country in the early nineties, but he's always been there. He had his first #1 single in 1982 when I was just 3 years old, and his most recent just last year.

In my first memories riding with my dad in his Chevy Silverado car hauler taking his 68 Camaro to the drag races, "Amarillo By Morning" was playing. On the first country music award show I ever watched, George played "If I Know Me," and Crystel and I danced to "I Cross My Heart" at our wedding reception.

When it comes to albums, Strait has a reputation as "Mr. Consistency," which can sometimes mean making the same album time and time again. However, he does have a tendency to release his best work around the milestones of my life. Greatest Hits came out when I started 1st grade, Pure Country when I hit junior high, Strait Out of the Box in high school, Carrying Your Love With Me around the time of high school graduation, Honkytonkville right before I moved to Oxford, and Somewhere Down In Texas right before my first international travel. One of his best albums of the last decade, Troubador, was released shortly after Crystel and I got married and moved into our new house. Any time I hear anything from any of these albums, I instantly think back to these times.

I find it strange that I still listen to George after all these years. He doesn't have many of the qualities I look for in an artist. He doesn't write most of his own songs, he rarely uses his touring band in the studio, he isn't much of a guitar player (his guitar is mainly a prop), and he has been a mainstream country artist for most of his career. He does, however, record songs that he believes in (even if he doesn't write them), and I could argue that he has never catered to mainstream country radio. Mainstream country radio has always allowed him to be the exception to their standard playlists. In the age of Rascal Flatts and Taylor Swift, he still gets radio play by recording his brand of Texas country music.

In my opinion, most of his singles over the last 5 years or so have been pretty dull, but his album cuts have been much better. Almost all of his albums are perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon on the back porch with a cold beverage. George is one of the few country artists making music today that I still care when he releases a new album. The critics care too. His latest album, Twang, showed up on many year-end best-of lists by self proclaimed "music snobs." Many artists will bash other musicians for not writing their own songs, but in the same interview claim George Strait is one of their favorites. This is the mystery of George Strait. He's done this for over 3 decades.

I'm looking forward to seeing what George releases for the future milestones of my life. He spends his downtime riding around his farm listening to demos to select songs for his next album, and he could be listening to the soundtrack some major life event as we speak.

Are there any artists that have been there your entire life? What about any songs or albums that transport you back to an earlier time in your life.

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