50 Number Ones
The title tells only part of the amazing story: Since his 1981 debut with the Strait Country album, the humble Texan George Strait has cut no fewer than 50 chart-topping singles. The rest of the story is that since his first No. 1, "I Hate Everything" -- a fiddle- and pedal steelrich tale of reconciliation born of another man's despair -- Strait has kept his traditional approach intact, occasionally injecting some rock 'n' roll propulsion and intensity (as on the driving, buoyant "Blue Clear Sky") or a chiming electric piano (the dreamy "You Look So Good In Love"), but never straying far from the support provided by a basic country combo with fiddles and steel. He picks exquisite songs that tell quintessential country stories -- about people celebrating love, about people torn up by love, about misadventures in love (as in the self-deprecating "All My Exes Live in Texas" and the bluesy, George Jonesstyle weeper "Let's Fall to Pieces Together"), about people trying to get from one day to the next ("I Can Still Make Cheyenne"). And Strait sings with tremendous feeling, using the entire range of his warm voice and phrasing with masterful sensitivity to a lyric's nuances, whether he's up there in the ether crying out a plea or easing down low for some romantic crooning (see "The Chair"). Not least of all, he's worked with two great producers in Jimmy Bowen and Tony Brown, who know exactly what to add to give a song wings and then get out of the artist's way. What's so special about George Strait? The answer's here, 50 times over.