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Music Review: Strait still going strong on new album

George Strait, “Here for a Good Time” (MCA Nashville)

Thirty years after his MCA Records debut, George Strait is making the most adventurous music of his career.

He still serves up the breadwinners — western swing, honky-tonk and smooth country ballads — that have made him one of the most enduring stars of all time. Yet, at age 59, he stretches out in his arrangements and themes in ways that challenge his remarkably pliant voice and that make statements he didn’t dare in the past.

He’s also writing more songs, a trend that started with his previous album “Twang.” This time, Strait contributes seven songs, nearly doubling the number he’s written in his career. He co-writes all of them, including the current hit — the wonderfully swinging “Here For A Good Time” — with his son Bubba Strait; six of them include assistance from Strait’s favorite writer, Dean Dillon.

The Texan assumes the role of an alcoholic on two moving ballads, “Poison” and “Drinkin’ Man”; he also takes on gospel (“Three Nails And A Cross”) and old-time rock ‘n’ roll (”Blue Marlin Blues”), and he tackles two daring covers (Delbert McClinton’s classic “Lone Star Blues” and Jesse Winchester’s introspective “A Showman’s Life”).

Strait has spent his career defying music industry conventions; as he starts his fourth decade as a star, he’s proving that Nashville’s focus on youth still has to make room for an old-timer who’s making music as undeniably strong as ever.

CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: “I’ll Always Remember You,” written by Strait, his son and Dillon, is the most autobiographical song the veteran has recorded. A love letter to his fans, the traditional country ballad includes a recitation reflecting on how he never expected to enjoy the career he has —and as grateful as he is, he’s not done yet.

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