"When I got off work on Friday after working like a dog all week/ I go to meet the boys for a cold one at a joint up the street/ they got a juke box in the corner full of old country tunes/ feed it five dollars of quarters is the first thing I do." - Twang - Jim Lauderdale-Kendall Marvel-Jimmy Ritchey.

Revered singer-songwriters Jim Lauderdale and Dean Dillon don't pray for rain - just a new George Strait album.

That's when royalties rain down on the prolific duo and bunch of regular co-writers.

So it's no surprise Lauderdale landed two new tunes and Dillon three collaborations on the laid back Texan troubadour's 38th album that sold 140,000 copies in its first week on charts.

A slight shock is Strait, who rarely records his own songs, penned three with son George Jr - better known as Bubba.

Bubba, now 28, also penned Arkansas Dave solo for his dad.

And expatriate former Aussie child star and latter day Nashville artist-actor Sherrie Austin, nee Kren, also has a co-write here.

OK that's the credits and genetics - how about the music?

Well, the South Texas rancher with a degree in agricultural economics never veers far from his Lone Star state musical roots.

His music is a timeless tableau on a surrealistic soundscape that owes much to days of yore when plentiful peace and love on the prairie was tempered by ruptured romance in the valleys.

But this time there's suffice roughage to keep his crops fertile and still palatable to U.S.
radio - and up and down the dial and across the border on Hispanic stations.

Strait, 57, was raised close enough to the famed Rio Grande at Poteet to cut an all Spanish vocal version of 1971 Jose Alfredo Jiminez ranchera El Rey, popularised by Vicente Fernández and Luis Miguel.

Jiminez was self-taught, wrote hundreds of songs and died in 1973 of hepatitis at the age of 47.

His tomb, marked by a huge sombrero, in the town of Dolores Hidalgo, Mexico, is a major tourist attraction.

For those, like me, not bi-lingual, here is the song's message - it's about a strutting macho man whose word is law and who regards himself as the king.

Mavericks guitarist Eddie Perez - a sideman for recent Australian tourists Lauderdale, Kim Richey, Gary Allan and Dwight Yoakam - is a backing vocalist on the Mexican folk song.

It bookends a delicious disc starting with the living for the weekend title track penned by Lauderdale, Kendell Marvel and Jimmy Ritchey.

That segues into Austin's co-write with Will Nance and Steve Williams on the wistful Where Have I Been All My Life.

The singer, who once cut a duet with Sinatra, milks nostalgia when he sings "I heard What A Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong/ it brought a tear to my eye/ after all these years I finally get that song/ where have I been all my life."


"I'm a whole lot easier to talk to/ when I've had a few/ I settle down, the whiskey kills the man you turned me into/ and I come alive, I'm living for the night." - Living For The Night - George Strait-Bubba Strait-Dean Dillon.

Strait is a master of exploiting nuances provided by his writers - even the simplistic splendor of Lauderdale-Ritchey-Blaine Larsen song I Gotta Get To You.

"I gotta get to you cause you sure been getting to me."

That segues into Steve Bogard-Rick Giles narrative Easy As You Go - the regret stained consequences of the graduation night coming of age of two students.

"Judgmental frowns, teachers looking down/ parents all ashamed passing out the blame/ they got a little room, service station view/ the rent's too high, the pay's too low."

You get the pathos-primed picture as Strait examines collateral damage - "ain't nothing like a daughter or a son/ to make a mama old and keep a daddy young/ make a body dream and give a life a theme."

It's a little more reflective than whiskey soaked chart topper Living For The Night where Strait's character in his inter generational original seeks solace in neon nirvana of a honky tonk.

It became Strait's 57th #1 hit in a career embroidered with an avalanche of awards and honours rising above fads and hype of some peers.

It's the first time he's recorded one of his own tunes since 1982's I Can't See Texas From Here that appeared on his second album Strait From The Heart.

Ironically I Can't See Texas From Here was featured on the U.S. season finale of Dancing With the Stars.

Tom DeLay - a disgraced former U.S. Republican Congressman from Texas - and his professional dance partner, Cheryl Burke, performed the Texas two-step to the song.

DeLay returned to the show - but not Congress - after dropping out early in the season because of foot injuries, maybe foot in mouth.


"It's the end of the road for Arkansas Dave/ I shot him and left him where he lay/ I'll never forget that winter day/ I rode off on the streak-faced bay/ no, I'll never forget that winter day/ I rode home on Daddy's streak-faced bay." - Arkansas Dave - Bubba Strait

Tempo changes are essential roughage in the Strait diet that keeps the listener sated.

Veteran Texan country soul & R & B mates Delbert McClinton and Gary Nicholson provide the rollicking Same Kind Of Crazy that enables Strait to energise it with a credible bluesy delivery.

Patty Loveless cut Same Kind Of Crazy on her 2005 Dreamin' My Dreams album.

It precedes another father and son penned lost love lament Out Of Sight Out Of Mind, inspired by the singer's spouse.

But it's young Bubba who shines in outlaw narrative Arkansas Dave - as the villain boasts of killing a man in Ohio for the streak-faced bay horse on which he decamps.

But the sting is in the tail of this fiddle, guitar and guns driven equaliser equine tale.

The arrogant horse thief's next double murder is avenged with the card game final call - the narrator steals the rustler's getaway horse and shoots him with a 44.

It's only at the song's end it becomes apparent the original murder victim was the father of the narrator.

Observers may perceive it as a sibling of sorts of Texas - from Strait's 2005 album Somewhere Down In Texas.

Hey, good western gunfighter ballads are a rarity in these soul-less techno times.


"Life's not the breaths you take/ but the moments that take your breath away." - The Breath You Take -Dean Dillon-Jessie Jo Dillon-Casey Beathard

So are ballads like The Breath You Take where tables are reversed when a father misses a plane to catch his son's baseball game.

History is repeated 15 years later when the father catches a plane to be present at the birth of his grand child.

No surprises the writers are father and daughter - Dean Dillon and Jessie Jo Dillon and Casey Beathard.

Dillon completes the quadrella by writing another lost love lament - the two stepper He's Got That Something Special.

< Dean Dillon

"He's got that something/ but that something special used to be mine."

Strait spices up this adventurous disc's gallop down the home straight in a gumbo spiced Hot Grease And Zydeco, penned by Gordon Bradbury and Tony Ramey.

One of the joys of the genre is the wry word play - especially the weather report in Doug Johnson and Pat Bunch's sardonic song Beautiful Day For Goodbye.

"If it were just a little colder/ she might need me to hold her/ but wouldn't you know it, the weather is perfect/ there's not a cloud in the sky/ it ain't rainin' or snowin'/ there's no cold wind blowin'/ it's a beautiful day for goodbye."

Strait produced the disc with Tony Brown at Jimmy Buffett's Shrimpboat Sound studio in Key West, Florida.

It doesn't appear any of the local lads parodied by Rev Billy C Wirtz for moving to Key West because they hadn't found the right girl yet, guest on the album.

Instead it's Nashville's session supremos that Strait dubbed The Critters.

Steel guitarist Paul Franklin and Stuart Duncan on fiddle and mandolin and trumpeter Mike Haynes, add the spice.

With discs like this Strait can afford to stay home on the range between high profile tours to sample the spoils of his laconic longevity.

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