The King of Country. The Cowboy. The Man. George Strait is a man of many names and many timeless country songs that will be remembered for decades and decades. While some may dispute the king moniker place upon him by his many fans, you at the very least have to put him near the top when counting the all-time greats in country music. He’s closing in on three decades of music and shows no signs of slowing down making music. Last week at this time none of us had any idea we would be getting a new Strait album this year and then Strait surprises everyone last Tuesday by announcing Vegas concert dates and a brand new album. Clearly an old dog can learn new tricks, as Strait essentially “pulled a Beyoncé” on us (where an artist surprise releases new music, as made famous by the pop star). Cold Beer Conversation is the name of the new album and I was definitely eager to dig into it because it’s George Strait and any new music from him is very welcome to this listener.
Cold Beer Conversation opens up with the love ballad “It Was Love.” It feels like your classic Strait love ballad, where with each listen it gets better and better. This Keith Gattis-penned song fits Strait like a glove and is a solid opener to the album. The album’s title track and current single follows. It’s a nostalgia driven song about two friends reminiscing, “shooting the shit” and wondering what lies ahead in the future. This song is definitely aimed more at a younger listener and I think it will appeal well to this group. Your mileage may vary with this song, as it will depend on whether or not you can connect with the theme. Personally it reminded me a lot of hanging out with an old friend.
The lead single from the album, “Let It Go,” is next. When this song came out earlier this year I reviewed it and my thoughts have remained unchanged. I will say though I was disappointed it didn’t even sniff the top 30 at radio. From my review of “Let It Go”: It’s sunny and happy. He co-wrote the song with his son Bubba Strait and Keith Gattis (also co-wrote Strait’s “I Got A Car”). The song is about how tough life can be, but you shouldn’t let that get you down and just let your problems go. Instead move past them and be sure to enjoy the truly good times and let them roll. It’s a pretty simple theme, as that is the intention. This song is intended to be a carefree and easygoing summer song.
“Goin’ Goin’ Gone” is your classic working man’s blues song. Strait sings about being overworked, not having a 401k and drinking your troubles away. It’s catchy, fun and relatable to the everyday American. In the 90s or even the 2000s this song is a number one song at country radio easily. This is the kind of fun country song we need at radio right now, but radio doesn’t want it. The album slows down with “Something Going Down.” It’s a love ballad where a man is having a romantic evening with his wife. He’s trying to get “something going down.” I can see what Strait is going for here, but the phrase comes off a little clunky to me. It just feels like something better could have been used. This surprised me considering the writers of the song are Jamey Johnson and Tom Shapiro. Despite this slight misstep, it’s still a good song, albeit one of the weaker ones on the album.
Strait goes back to his roots with “Take Me To Texas.” He proudly sings of his home of Texas and what it means to him. Now as most of you know Texas country artists love to have these songs on almost all of their albums and it comes off so hokey and clichéd. But for some reason it’s charming coming from Strait. It’s hard to explain. I guess it just sounds natural from him and speaks to his talent. One of my favorite tracks on Cold Beer Conversation is “It Takes All Kinds.” King George drops some good old Western Swing on us! It’s definitely one of the most pleasant surprises of the album and Strait’s little wink towards traditional country fans. The song itself is about how the world takes all kinds and it’s okay if others are different. In fact he makes a possible veiled reference to today’s mainstream country artists with these lyrics halfway through:
Some wear a backwards baseball cap/If that’s you I’m cool with that/Me I’m more a cowboy hat/It takes all kinds
It may not be a reference to mainstream country artists of today, but I could definitely see it being one. Nevertheless it shows George Strait is always the gentleman.
“Stop And Drink” feels like another classic Strait song from beginning to end. It’s about observing the craziness of the world around you and making you want to drink a cold one in response. You listen to this song and you mutter to yourself, “I’ve been here.” I have to mention the instrumentation on this song is fantastic, but that’s no surprise with Strait. One of the gems of the album is “Everything I See.” Strait reflects on the death of a close friend and how he’s trying to move on after losing him. Everywhere he looks he sees a little piece of his friend and still finds himself dialing his number everyday. It’s a heartfelt song and will really hit home if you’ve just lost a friend. Strait wrote this song with his son Bubba, Gattis and Dean Dillon.
A song that took me more than a few listens to really grasp was “Rock Paper Scissors.” It’s about a woman leaving a man and how she left a rock (diamond ring), paper (“she slapped ink on a good-bye note”) and scissors (what she used to “cut his face out of every picture”) on the table. The song is a really clever take on the classic heartbreak country song. Not to mention Jamey Johnson joins Strait on the song, making it even better. It should be said that it’s nice to see Strait have Johnson involved a lot in this album. By the way we’re still waiting on that new album from you too, Jamey. “Wish You Well” is a drinking/heartbreak song. A man is drinking at the bar as he recovers from his woman leaving him and remarks that there are six beers separating him from wishing she was there with him and wishing her well. Being that there are several strong songs on this album, this song is one of the weaker ones. It’s solid, yet unspectacular.
A troika of prolific songwriters for Strait wrote “Cheaper Than A Shrink.” That troika is Johnson, Bill Anderson and Buddy Cannon. This same trio wrote the Strait classic “Just Give It Away.” While “Cheaper Than A Shrink” may not be at that song’s level, it’s still pretty damn good. With a wry sense of humor, Strait sings of how spending money on drinking is much cheaper than a shrink to solve your problems. This is another song that if released in another decade, would have reached #1. The album closes out with “Even When I Can’t Feel It.” And it may just be the best song on the entire record. The song is basically about life and how even when life is unfair and keeping you down, you can still believe things will get better even when you can’t feel it. Once again it’s another classic Strait song where he just hits it out of the park with the right amount of emotion and lyrics that describe it perfectly.
Just as I expected, George Strait delivers with Cold Beer Conversation. It’s a very good album full of a variety of songs about life, love and drinking. Pretty much any country fan could pick this album up and find at least one song they can enjoy. Strait is simply timeless and shows no signs of losing his magic touch. Many artists when they get older lose what makes them great, but Strait still very much has it and seems poised to release a lot more great music for years to come. Go get this album and just listen to it repeatedly. And thank you, George, for another memorable album.
There are currently no available ways to hear songs on the album via YouTube (at least legally, as I don’t like to advocate illegal videos on here) or Spotify. Your only way to hear it legally is via Apple Music, iTunes or Walmart. But as I said above I definitely recommend getting it.