Much has been made about the risks George Strait has taken on his 26th studio album, Twang, but “risk” is a relative term for an artist who has built his considerable reputation and legacy on his aesthetic conservatism and his unwavering consistency. The risks Strait has taken here are more like slight variations on his tried-and-true formula and image: It’s tempting to say that the straight-laced singer’s untucked shirt on the album’s cover says it all. Mixed in among slickly produced, traditional-leaning country cuts like “Easy As You Go” and “Beautiful Day for Goodbye,” Twang offers a terrific, bluesy reading of Delbert McClinton’s “Same Kind of Crazy” and a self-referential take on mariachi standard “El Ray” that Strait sings in surprisingly adept Spanish. Perhaps the most significant change of pace here is that Strait has co-written some of his material—lead single “Living for the Night,” the best of his cuts, was a co-write with his son, George “Bubba” Strait Jr.—for the first time since 1982’s Straight from the Heart. While he won’t have any of Nashville’s most in-demand songwriters fretting, the songs that both generations of Straits have penned here are solid efforts, with “Arkansas Dave” standing as a clever homage to country murder ballads. None of this is revolutionary stuff, but it’s hard to imagine what incentive Strait could have to make any major changes, considering that he has nearly 60 #1 singles to his credit and just won a Grammy for his last album, Troubadour. But risky or not, Twang is nonetheless one of the more interesting permutations of the prototypical George Strait record.
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