Tuesday, George Strait released Here For a Good Time, by our count his 39th album overall. Some may call that the Madness of King George, but Rocks Off the Elder and Younger have both heard Good Time; we both think it's one of his stronger sets, continuing the bout of second wind (Third? Fourth?) he caught around 2005's Troubador.
To mark the occasion, and perhaps plant a bug in Strait's ear about playing a show here sooner rather than later (Rodeo 2012?), we put our heads together and came up with our 20 favorite Strait songs to tickle our ears since 1981's Strait Country. 30 years. Not bad at all. We probably could have come up with 39 songs without too much more effort - it took a lot of cuts on both sides to even whittle the list down to 20 - but unfortunately we do have other duties around the newspaper to attend to as well.
This four-part daily countdown will run through Monday, when we should find out the results of what's looking like an epic showdown between Strait, Kanye West & Jay-Z's The Throne, and Adele for the No. 1 album on the Billboard 200. Coincidence? You be the judge.
20. "Nobody In His Right Mind Would've Left Her": One of the wordiest Strait cuts, and the most complex. Written by Dean Dillon, it has that same trick wordplay, like "All My Ex's", that takes a few listens to get behind. Paul Franklin's steel guitar is what a broken heart sounds like. Craig Hlavaty
Written By: Dean Dillon Originally Released On: #7 (1986)
19. "80 Proof Bottle of Tear Stopper": Twin-fiddle two-step Hill Country honky-tonk at its finest, with good reason. Llano native Darryl Staedtler, who wrote the Wilburn Brothers' "It's Another World" (No. 3 , 1965) and Lefty Frizzell's "Honky Tonk Stardust Cowboy," penned this uptempo tune about the oldest cure for heartache in the book.
Staedtler befriended Strait in the latter's days as a regular at San Marcos' Cheatham Street Warehouse, and helped him record his first Nashville demos for Staedtler's publisher, Chappell Music, in the late '70s. Staedtler wrote one of Strait's first No. 1 hits, "A Fire I Can't Put Out" (also from Right or Wrong), and says the singer used to call him for advice, but told The Llano News last year that "I haven't heard from him since 1987." Chris Gray
Written By: Darryl Staedtler Originally Released On: Right or Wrong (1983)
18. "You Look So Good In Love": "Oh how you sparkle, and oh how you shine," begins this Classic Strait cut, made perfect for a slow dance, or a long, deep session of regret. Either one works. Dig that spoken-word breakdown at the end, too. C.H.
Written By: Glen Ballard, Rory Michael Bourke & Kerry Chater Originally Appears On: Right or Wrong
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17. "El Rey": The first time Rocks Off heard Strait close out his previous album, Twang, with a mariachi song, we said, "Huh?" Then we listened again. And again. Written by late Mexican star Jose Alfredo Jimenez (1926-73), "El Rey" is so good that not only does a Spanish album from El Rey Jorge make good business sense, it could sell by the Chevy truckload. Raul Malo better watch his back. C.G.
Written By: Jose Alfredo Jimenez Originally Released On: Twang (2009)
16. "Living for the Night": Strait at his sad-bastard best, with the line "whiskey kills the man you turned me into." You can just imagine a grizzled, newly divorced man listening to this in his unfurnished one-bedroom apartment. C.H.
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Written By: Dean Dillon, George Strait & Bubba Strait Originally Released On: Twang
Come back tomorrow for Nos. 15-11, and a look at some of the longest song titles King George has ever put to tape.