George Strait Week, Part 2: Cajun George

After Tuesday's look at the shockingly Morrissey-like sentiments of the many George Strait songs where his love interest is either already gone or on her way out the door, Rocks Off thought today we'd take a look at a much happier - and, it should be said, significantly smaller - subcategory of King George's prodigious catalog.

Distinguished by lively fiddle/accordion interplay and an up-tempo two-step or waltz rhythm, Cajun music has been cropping up in country at least since Hank Williams' "Jambalaya," but Polk County native Moon Mullican had a hit even before that with his version of star-crossed fellow Southeast Texan Harry Choates' "Jolie Blon." Meanwhile, Strait's main role models have always been crooners like Gene Autry and Merle Haggard - and even Frank Sinatra on some of his more sentimental ballads - but every once in a while he'll record something that's pure bayou country.

"Adalida" (Lead On, 1994): Duh. Strait's most textbook Cajun song just so happens to be about a "pretty little Cajun queen." It's also his highest-charting bayou tune, reaching No. 3 in 1995. Strait's vow that "to stand beside ya, sweet Adalida, I'd swim the Ponchartrain" may sound unseemly to some, but Rocks Off understands - there's a gal or two around Houston for whom we'd gladly swim the Ship Channel.

"We Really Shouldn't Be Doing This" (One Step at a Time, 1998): Another fiddle-dominated two-stepper, with just a hint of Jerry Lee Lewis piano, about the dangers of instant attraction. Note the grammatical construction of the lyrics - just because they shouldn't be doing this, Strait seems to imply, doesn't mean they're not doing it anyway. Sometimes the fun of the moment far outweighs any consequences that may come later; hell, any Cajun will tell you that.

"Twang" (Twang, 2009): The title track to Strait's latest album, released yesterday, is an ode to feeding quarters in the jukebox. "Twang" doesn't feature quite as much fiddle as the other songs on this list, but the shuffling rhythm is so Cajun you can practically hear someone scraping a froittoir (rubboard) in the background.

"Don't Make Me Come Over There and Love You" (George Strait, 2000): More or less a musical dead ringer for "We Really Shouldn't Be Doing This" - same fiddle, same shuffle-beat - "Don't Make Me" is a shining example of Strait's often tongue-in-cheek lyrics: "Don't make me come over there and love you/ Because it's looking like a perfect spot." Don't miss the hilarious karaoke-themed video, either.

"Stars on the Water" (The Road Less Traveled, 2001): A little slower than the others here, but the abundant fiddle and rich bayou imagery of pirogues, blue-lit swampside beer joints and "dang hurricanes" more than make up for it. Besides, it's written by self-admitted "Southeast Texas hayseed" and native Houstonian Rodney Crowell, so Rocks Off had to put it on the list. We'll probably never understand why George thought he needed a Vocoder, so try the version on 2003's For the Last Time: Live from the Astrodome to hear how "Stars" should sound.

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Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray