My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Soundtrack Review: George Strait – ‘Pure Country’

George Strait has an extensive catalog, so just narrowing down which albums of his to write about for our spotlight was a daunting task in itself.  Then there’s the work that goes along with profiling a legendary artist like George Strait – making sure we hit all the high points as well as the lows, though Strait has admittedly less lows than most artists.  Most of the credit for this month goes to Razor X and Occasional Hope, who tirelessly championed this month’s spotlight while I just kinda watched from a distance and then wrote what they told me to.  All bloggers should be so lucky to have two hard-working and dedicated team members.

We’ve also been lucky to have some excellent guest contributors in past months too, including Michael Allan, and now for the second time Chad has agreed to share his thoughts on George Strait’s landmark soundtrack album to his big screen film of the same name.  To read more about the film, check out Juli Thanki’s Celluloid Country review at The 9513.  But first, check out Chad’s review for the soundtrack. There’s lots more George Strait coverage coming this month and also be sure to enter our giveaway for a chance to win a copy of George Strait’s 50 Number Ones.

– J.R. Journey

pure countryI guess I should start by saying that I’m a George Strait fan. I grew up in Texas, where that’s basically a moral imperative. However, I’m not a huge fan of George Strait as an album artist. Rather, I think he’s a great singles artist (as evidenced by his record setting string of #1 hits, two of which happen to be on this soundtrack.)

That being said, its interesting to take a look back at this CD, which has sold more than any other Strait record to date. In reading about some of the stats about this CD, I was surprised to learn that there were only three singles officially released to radio because, at the time, I remember our local Fort Worth country stations playing several more songs from the soundtrack than that (including ‘Baby Your Baby’, ‘Where the Sidewalk Ends,’ and ‘Overnight Male’).

Rather than talking about each track individually, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the record as a whole, especially since it has been his most popular in the record store. In many ways, this CD falls right in line with other Strait records. ‘I Cross My Heart’ (one of Strait’s best love songs, in my opinion),’Baby Your Baby’, “The King of Broken Hearts,” and “When Did You Stop Loving Me” could have all easily found their place on any other George Strait record. They have consistent themes, instrumentation, and delivery with most of the rest of his catalogue, especially up to this point.  (If you haven’t already, check out Lee Ann Womak’s version of ‘King of Broken Hearts’ from her latest CD. While I don’t usually think anyone can out sing Strait on a song, she comes pretty close.)

However, there are a few departures—most notably, ‘Where the Sidewalk Ends’ and the lead track (and second single) ‘Heartland’.  Taken in the scope of the movie, these differences make sense as they’re reflective of the derailment of Strait’s character, Dusty, and the slick, overproduced stage act he was resisting. Listening to these songs outside of the movie leaves more to be wanted, especially coming from George Strait. Both tracks are loud with too much instrumentation. And to be honest, I’ve always felt like Strait was a ½ beat behind the music on both of these tracks.

So while I personally think the record, outside of the context of the movie, is pretty uneven, it does contain some great Strait singles, only a few of which actually made it to national radio. I still can’t quite figure out why this is his most popular record—is it just on the basis of the lead single and love song, ‘I Cross My Heart’?  (It was a huge wedding song at the time.) Was it because of the novelty of seeing George Strait, who usually comes off as shy and quiet, on the big screen in his first real acting debut?

Whatever the reason, it’s a grouping of satisfactory Strait songs that just don’t happen to stand out as a whole looking back at them now.

Grade: B

5 responses to “Soundtrack Review: George Strait – ‘Pure Country’

  1. Occasional Hope September 23, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    I’ve always thought it an anomaly that this is George Strait”s biggest seller despite being, imo, his least good. I think you have to chalk it down to the power of the movies to sell stuff.

    • Razor X September 23, 2009 at 5:18 pm

      The weaker songs on the album are necessary because of the film’s storyline — “Baby, Your Baby”, “Overnight Male” and the title track, which was my least favorite Strait single until “River of Love” came along. But there are also some excellent songs like “When Did You Stop Loving Me” and “The King of Broken Hearts”. I agree that it is likely his best seller due to the extra exposure it got because of the film tie-in.

  2. Michael September 24, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    I guess I don’t mind “Heartland”. I even like the little duet version with his son that closes the album.

    • Razor X September 24, 2009 at 9:05 pm

      I don’t like the duet version at all. Little Bubba didn’t inherit his daddy’s singing talent, though he has turned out to be a pretty good songwriter.

    • Leeann Ward September 24, 2009 at 11:15 pm

      I like “Heartland” too, though it’s ironic that it has a rock edge to it, considering its opening line. Bubba sure didn’t sound good as a boy, but I wonder if he’s better now. Vince Gill’s daughter, Jenny, wasn’t much of a singer at ten when she sang on Vince’s “Let There Be Peace on Earth. In fact, she was flat in places, so the background singers were kind of turned up to help cover it up. Now, however, she’s turned into a very good singer and even sounds good when she’s not harmonizing with her dad.

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