Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Country & Western: Strait-talkin' son of a gun...

You've got to love George Strait. He's sold millions of records, influenced an entire generation of country crooners and continues to sell out arenas the world over but still the Texas-born legend remains something of a mystery.

You've got to love George Strait. He's sold millions of records, influenced an entire generation of country crooners and continues to sell out arenas the world over but still the Texas-born legend remains something of a mystery.

While some country stars crave the limelight, act the big man at every opportunity and appear in celebrity magazines at the drop of a Stetson hat George just cruises by smoothly, never letting himself down and never looking a day older either.

It's a pretty neat trick and one that most Nashville superstars could do with learning.

As his name implies Strait has got to be the least showbiz of country music superstars.

Where others dress up in the spangles and rhinestones George is more of a denim and check shirt kind of man.

It's a simple image and one that continues to inspire a whole generation of country performers.

Before George no one wore a hat when they performed.

That was a cowboy tradition that died out with Roy Rogers and company.

To George though it was something he always wore in his everyday life so why shouldn't he wear one on stage?

Suddenly before you could say "fashion statement" every single country crooner worth his salt was finishing off their look with a humble Stetson.

Much like his image his music has always been simplicity personified as well.

Taking his lead from true country legends like Hank Williams and Bob Wills he's always provided plain-talking country that rarely veers off the familiar path of good old western two step and easy-going honky tonk.

Where many of those who have followed in his wake, like Garth Brooks and Kenny Chesney, have sought crossover success in the pop charts George has never compromised his traditional country sound and the result of that dedication is there for all to hear in his superb back catalogue.

Now many of his finest tracks have been gathered together for a new best of called simply Strait Hits and it makes for some truly inspirational listening.

All the classics are on offer here from Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind? To All My Ex's Live In Texas and it serves as a perfect primer for anyone keen to learn more about the man and his music and a timely reminder for long-term fans as to why the man continues to be held in such high esteem.

If you want to see his influence on country music today look no further than Alan Jackson or Tim McGraw.

The no nonsense, traditional country values that both men stand for is a direct echo of Strait's style and blueprint.

That the latter even went as far as releasing a tribute song to his hero called Give It To Me Strait gives you some idea of the impact old George has made..

After all glamour and glitz is all very well but there's no substitute for real quality is there?

l Ralph presents The Ralph McLean Show every weekday afternoon on BBC Radio Ulster between 3 and 5pm and McLean's Country every Saturday night from 8pm. Find out more at www.ralphmclean.com.

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