Blue Clear Sky was George Strait’s seventeenth studio album when it was released in 1996. At the time, country music was still riding the wave of the 90s sales boom, and George Strait was right in the thick of things for the duration of that period. This was the first Strait album I ever bought, as I was just becoming a fan of more traditional country acts around the time of its release, and it’s still my favorite of King George’s 30+ album releases. Blue Clear Sky spawned 4 hit singles, with the first 2 going all the way to #1, and the third and fourth peaking at #4 and #19, respectively. The album itself hit the top spot of the country albums chart and the top 10 on the all-genre chart, and has been certified 3-times platinum for sales of over three million copies.
The title track served as the first single, and would eventually become George’s 29th career #1. The bouncy song fit the sound of contemporary country perfectly at the time, while still remaining to sound like a traditional Strait cut. The ‘love happens like that’ theory isn’t a novel idea, but Strait’s crisp delivery makes this a pleasant listen even though it’s not one of my favorites. ‘Blue Clear Sky’ has since become one of George Strait’s most-played recurrents on country radio.
I don’t take my whiskey to extremes
Don’t believe in chasin’ crazy dreams
My feet are planted firmly on the ground
But darlin’ when you come around
I get carried away by the look, by the light in your eyes
Before I even realize the ride I’m on, baby I’m long gone
For the second single, the Strait team chose the elegant ‘Carried Away’, the tale of a well-grounded man who tends to lose his steady head in the company of his love interest. Steve Bogard and Jeff Stevens wrote this tale of romance, and again, Strait delivers the vocal with his signature crooning style. This would prove to be the second chart-topping single from the album, and another that still gets some spins on today’s country radio.
Garth Brooks may have made tales of rodeo cowboys famous in the 1990s, but George Strait has been singing about the hardships and triumphs of the last of the real American pioneers for the entirety of his career. ‘I Can Still Make Cheyenne’ tells the story of a traveling cowboy who calls home to tell his wife he didn’t make the finals and that he’s coming home. She tells the cowboy she has already replaced him with a more stay-at-home lover, ‘There’s somebody new and he sure ain’t no rodeo man‘. Resilient as a man can be, he tells her he wishes things had turned out differently and that he’ll miss her, but he’s gotta go now because ‘if I hurry, I can still make Cheyenne‘.
The final single was the Larry Boone and Paul Nelson-penned ‘King Of The Mountain’. The slow-moving number, drenched with Paul Franklin’s steel playing and Stuart Duncan’s fiddling, stalled at #19 on the charts, but remains of my favorites in the entire Strait catalog.
Mark Chesnutt was a co-writer, along with Bruce Bouton and Roger Springer, on the swinging ‘I Ain’t Never Seen No One Like You’. Jim Lauderdale and Gary Nicholson’s ‘Do The Right Thing’ brings the swinging side of Strait to the forefront again in another enjoyably number.
She wants to talk it over, but he knows it’s already over in ‘I’d Just As Soon Go’. Strait delivers this one with just a hint of sadness and that gives the lyric and performance a sort of dichotomy. It’s back to crooning for the album’s closer, ‘Need I Say More’. Strait’s vocal waltzes effortlessly through this romantic come-hither tune.
Blue Clear Sky wasn’t a land-mark album in the career of George Strait, but it did keep him on top of his game for 1996, and was his first set of all-new material since 1995’s Strait Out of the Box career retrospective. I think it was a fine return to form for Strait, proving he could hold his own with the new young blood country was infused with at the time, and proved that he’s still head and shoulders above his closest competition.
This album is still widely available at all retailers and you can listen to it at Last FM.