My Kind of Country

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

Single Review – George Strait – ‘Drinkin’ Man’

I remember reading someone criticize George Strait’s foray into songwriting, saying that he’ll likely never be introspective or pen anything substantive. That was back in 2009, three years before he’d release one of the finest story songs of his career with “Drinkin’ Man,” a tune co-written with his son Bubba and Dean Dillon.

“Drinkin’ Man” succeeds on two distinct fronts – Strait’s storytelling abilities and the raw honesty conveyed within the story, cumulating in the stunning hook, “It’s a hell of a lot to ask of a drinkin’ man.” With so many modern country songs romanticizing the partying lifestyle, down to the endless tailgate parties, scantily clad women, and overflowing Red Solo Cups, its refreshing to hear a drinking song that tackles the ravaging effects of alcoholism in such an honest manner.

The song begins with the male protagonist at the age of 14, drunk by 10am despite a pack with God to never again bring the bottle to his lips. He’s already in trouble – keeping his addiction from his parents and ignoring the advice from his friends to straighten up – but the tall order of sobriety is just too much to bear:

I just laughed, said, you don’t understand

That’s a hell of a lot to ask a drinkin’ man

The addiction escalates in the next verse, finding him at 16, on his own, with the whole world figured out. The wild child, he’s causing concern for his parents and has even added marijuana to his drug cocktail. At the end of the verse Strait brilliantly puts everything back into perspective, as another brush with sobriety comes up short:

 Stayed sober once for nine days in a row

I quit cold turkey and damn near almost made it to ten

But that’s a hell of a lot to ask of a drinkin’ man

“Drinkin’ Man” brings to mind that other brilliant tale of alcoholism, Collin Raye’s 1994 #2 “Little Rock” (written by Tom Douglas) but goes a step further by making the pain of alcohol the focus opposed to spending so much time focusing on what the man has lost as a result. It’s the better song because of that slight switch, which comes to light in the chorus, the most stunning display of self-reflection you’ll likely hear all year on a mainstream single:

I look into the mirror, bottle in my hand

I’d like to pour it out, I just don’t think I can

‘Cause that’s a hell of a lot to ask of a drinkin’ man

After that emotional zenith, he falls in love and almost gets his life together but like any great country song, the temptation of the bottle is too much to ignore. We never find out what became of the man but that hardly matters as Strait has crafted one of his greatest achievements with this song, the depths of which knows no bounds. It’s so nice to see the last of the elder statesmen able to score huge radio singles, using their platform to deliver age appropriate and thought-provoking material worthy of their legacy. It’s going to be tough to push this up the charts in the summer months, but if anyone can get this single to masses its Strait.

Grade: A+

14 responses to “Single Review – George Strait – ‘Drinkin’ Man’

  1. Treedy April 26, 2012 at 8:08 am

    Great review! I love the song and think it will have no problem charting. Imo though Little Rock is the better of the two songs that song has moved me to tears many times!

  2. Per Kammersgaard April 26, 2012 at 10:02 am

    With Mr. Dillon as a co-writer, I don’t think the two Straits contributed too much….

    • Ben Foster April 26, 2012 at 10:06 pm

      I can understand why one might suspect that, but really the only people who can say so for sure are the people who were in the room when the song was written.

    • Shelly Flanagan April 27, 2012 at 7:39 pm

      In interviews about the album, George said “Drinkin Man” was his idea and suggested it to Dean at a party in Nashville. I think he is giving more to the writing than anyone could ever believe. But only the three of them truly know that.

  3. Occasional Hope April 26, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    A great song.

  4. nick April 26, 2012 at 5:17 pm

    Great song!!! A REAL COUNTRY song. Hope this one does well for George!

  5. Michelle April 26, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    I can’t wait to hear this I think George Bubba and Dean Dillon make a great team and I hope it does do well on the charts.

  6. Ben Foster April 26, 2012 at 10:05 pm

    Great review of a great song. I so hope it becomes at least something of a hit. It would speak volumes to the sad state of modern country music if a career-best effort from George Strait could go unnoticed at radio, and I would say the same of Alan Jackson’s current single.

    You make an interesting comparison to “Little Rock.” I don’t think I could make a call on which song is greater. I just see them as alternate variations on a similar theme, both effective. I really like how “Little Rock” portrays a man who has all but won the battle with the bottle, but who still faces the challenge of putting his life back together afterwards. It very effectively hones in on the often-irreparable damage that can be done by addiction, while the rift between earnest desire and cold hard reality makes it very emotionally moving. Plus, I think “Jesus would forgive, but a daddy don’t forget” is one of the most stingingly honest lines a country song has ever produced.

  7. Nolan M. Pino April 27, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    “Drinkin’ Man” is surly one of the most compelling singles that George Strait has ever released in his 30+ year career. This song is well written and describes a young man who examines his past and present with clear eyes, looking into the mirror while with the bottle still in his hands. With sad emotion, he remembers his mom and dad who worries about him, his friends that tried to save him, and the woman who loved him. “Drinkin’ Man” will surly do great on the country charts even if it becomes a number one single. George Strait is the “King of Country Music” and will always be. Congrads on writting an excellent song!!!!!!

  8. Morgan J. Antonio April 27, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    I love this song “Drinkin’ Man” is a good 3rd hit single release from his “Here for a Good Time” album. I listen to this on my ipod almost everyday. I hope this song will do well on the country charts this summer. George Strait is the greatest country music legend of all time in country music history.

  9. Linda Robbins May 23, 2012 at 10:45 pm

    Having watched Mr. Strait throughout his career, I know that he would not put his name on this song if he hadn’t made a lot of the contribution. He and Bubba get together to work on ideas and melodies before they arrange to meet Dean somewhere for a few days. George has written before, at the beginning of his career and said in one of his last interviews that he wants to pull some of those songs out and re-work them. So, I believe George might surprise some with his creative side. I look forward to this part of his career.

  10. Jeremiah McCurry (@JeremiahMcCurry) June 6, 2012 at 10:07 pm

    I don’t think radio is going to play this song much but it should be a shoe in for song of the year nominee at the CMAs.

  11. Jimmie September 14, 2012 at 9:37 am

    Unreal Radio!!! Drinkin’ Man peaked at #37 in July. One of the finest songs of the decade, in my opinion. Of course there was no mention of backroads, tailgates, tight bodies….etc. Come on get real!!

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