I-review Cold Beer Conversation

George Strait

... magbasa ng higit paGeorge Strait rode off into the sunset in 2014, retreating from the road via an uncharacteristically well-hyped two-year farewell. Strait may have hung up his touring boots but he didn't retire, so his re-emergence in the fall of 2015 with the sudden release of a brand-new studio album called Cold...

George Strait rode off into the sunset in 2014, retreating from the road via an uncharacteristically well-hyped two-year farewell. Strait may have hung up his touring boots but he didn't retire, so his re-emergence in the fall of 2015 with the sudden release of a brand-new studio album called Cold Beer Conversation accompanied by a Las Vegas residency shouldn't be a surprise: he never said he'd stop singing. Appropriately, Cold Beer Conversation feels like a continuation, another reliable record arriving right on schedule, just two years after the last. Behind the scenes, there were some shifts, with Tony Brown -- who has been part of the Strait team since 1992 -- bestowing the producer seat to Chuck Ainlay, a relative newcomer who produced hits for Miranda Lambert and her band Pistol Annies, along with engineering everybody from Emmylou Harris to Taylor Swift. Ainlay provides just the slightest hint of contemporization, opening up the mix a bit and adding splashes of handsomely burnished color, subtle -- almost imperceptible -- changes that nevertheless freshen Strait's proudly traditional country without pushing it into a cacophonous modern mainstream. Instead, Ainlay's work emphasizes continuity as much as the selection of songs from George's stable of writers: originals composed by the singer and his son Bubba, a co-write by Jamey Johnson and Tom Shapiro ("Something Going Down"), a selection by Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally ("Take Me to Texas"), credits by Keith Gattis, Al Anderson, and Buddy Cannon, among others. While the vibe is quite relaxed -- not for nothing is the album named after an alluringly lazy throwback to Strait's early-'80s work -- it nevertheless allows room for plenty of different styles, ranging from the snapping twang of "Goin' Goin' Gone" and Texas dancehall shuffle "Cheaper Than a Shrink" to the surprisingly raucous "Rock Paper Scissors" and the Western Swing of "It Takes All Kinds." Still, what holds the album together is Strait's mellow command. He's a singer that can make quiet seem compelling, and there are plenty of instances in this tight, wholly satisfying record where he demands attention by not asking for it. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine