In 2005, twenty-four years into his hit-making career, George Strait released Somewhere Down In Texas, a collection of laid-back songs that contrasted 2003’s Honkytonkville‘s hard honky-tonk sound. The album landed at the top of the country albums chart as well as the all-genre Billboard 200 and was certified platinum. It also provided Strait with another chart-topper on the country singles chart, a feat its predecessor didn’t accomplish, when ‘She Let Herself Go’ became his 40th Billboard #1, tying a record previously held by Conway Twitty, which George has since broken. Two other singles also hit the top 20.
First to radio from this mostly sedate collection was the inspirational ‘You’ll Be There’, written by Cory Mayo. The tune was a bit of a departure for George with its chorus echoing the melodies of a pop power ballad. It also employs a bevy of background vocalists in the chorus and the general instrumentation is a definite change of direction for the singer. Still, the tune hit the top 5 on the country singles chart, resting at an eventual #4 peak.
‘She Let Herself Go’ was the album’s second single, and this tale of a scorned woman turned globetrotter hit the top spot on the country singles chart. The song tells the story of a woman whose husband has left her and uses the title as a hook for all the places she took herself; all the places her husband never wanted to go. It’s the sort of strong, modern woman theme that plays perfectly with country radio.
The best track from the set is easily Strait’s cover of Merle Haggard’s ‘The Seashores of Old Mexico’, written by The Hag. Strait and co-producer Tony Brown employ a calypso sound to frame the verses, while Strait delivers a cool vocal, befitting the delightful storyline. Radio didn’t warm to this one as much, which is a shame, and it stalled outside the top 10 at #11 on the charts.
And there are other memorable moments here too. Steven Dale Jones and Phillip White wrote the witty ‘Texas’, which espouses the virtues and the originality of the Longhorn State. One of my favorite things about this song is how the writers have managed to include a shout-out to everything we outsiders associate with Texas, from the Alamo to Willie Nelson, and of course the music, with nods to Austin City Limits and Strait’s own classic hit ‘Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind’. I hesitate to call this a list song, but that’s exactly what it is; it just happens to be a quality list song and there’s at least a reason and even a pay-off at the end, for stringing together so many Texas references into one song. It also became another top 40 hit, charting at #35 from unsolicited airplay.
Read more of this post