Like the man himself said, easy come, easy go. Happy as we are that it's Friday, and almost quitting time to boot, Rocks Off a little sad too, because that means George Strait Week is almost over. But not quite. We're putting it to bed the only way we know how - with the King's five best Texas songs.
"All My Exes Live In Texas"
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Ocean Front Property
, 1987): A masterpiece of whimsical honky-tonk with the dark implication that sooner or later, Strait's playboy lifestyle is going to place him at the wrong end of a .45. No wonder he resides in Tennessee. Strangely enough, the names of all his former flames rhyme with their hometowns. "Dimples," notably, was sufficiently wounded by whatever Strait did to her that she's called out every law enforcement agency in Bell County to track him down - and probably the Texas Rangers too.
"Amarillo by Morning" (Strait From the Heart, 1982): If Rocks Off had to venture a guess which song Strait would say is his "signature," this would be it. A stirring fiddle points the way as a burned-out rodeo cowboy recounts various injuries at several Lone Star ports of call, an itinerant, difficult lifestyle the pre-superstar Strait can obviously identify with. By itself, the number of bruised, battered bull riders who regularly sing this in their heads - voluntarily or otherwise - on their way to the next town can probably fill Reliant Stadium. "Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind" (Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind, 1984): Mid-tempo shuffle, smooth as the proverbial baby's bottom, that finds Strait wondering out loud if the one who got away (all the way to Big D) ever misses him. The answer is pretty obviously no, but "Fort Worth" is an excellent opener to an album that was an early high-water mark in Strait's career and remains one of his best. "I Can't See Texas From Here" (Strait From the Heart, 1982): Perfectly captures the frustration and homesickness every true Texan feels when they're away from native soil, and the frisky Western Swing arrangement echoes the built-in bravado that precludes them from ever admitting such a thing. Until the brand-new Twang, "I Can't See Texas" was the only Strait-penned cut on any of his umpteen albums. "Big Ball's In Cowtown" (Asleep at the Wheel, A Tribute to the Music of Bob Wills & the Texas Playboys, 1993): 1983's "Right or Wrong" is arguably Strait's definitive Bob Wills cover, but this song, recorded with Asleep at the Wheel for an album that also featured Vince Gill, Garth Brooks and Dolly Parton, is a close second. Strait's laid-back but assured vocals and willingness to let the instrumentalists steer the ship recall another of his idols who also cut "Cowtown" - Merle Haggard.
Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
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