The short version: … George Strait is back!
- Writers: Luke Laird, Barry Dean and Lori McKenna
- Rating: 6/10
The long version: We might have had to wait a little while for new George Strait music, but all feels right in the country music world now that it’s here.
Granted, while Strait hasn’t quite been as active this decade, he’s at that stage in his career where he’s free to do whatever he pleases.
As for his new song, “God and Country Music,” while I wouldn’t say it’s among Strait’s very best work, there’s a timeless simplicity to it that makes it work much better than it should.
The production mix is one of the song’s weaker assets. The song starts with little more than an acoustic line to bolster the first verse before unfurling spacier piano, fiddle, steel guitar, and drums into the mix during the chorus. While it’s tasteful, the song itself also feels like it plods along in a classic, almost stereotypical Hallmark ballad sense. Even for a restrained, serious song such as this, it feels more sleepy than inviting. The drum beat feels like it tips its hat more to dreamy soul than classic country. Overall, it feels like a lighter, fluffier cut from the ’80s and ’90s in this department.
I’m torn on the song lyrically. From the title right on down to its approach, everything about this screams, “cheesy.” Yet there’s also something quite simplistically real here. The two songs this reminded me of the most were Eric Church’s “Some Of It” and Joe Nichols’ “Old School Country Song” from 2013. The song itself is an exercise in comparing well … God and country music. I won’t open the can of worms regarding religion in the climate we live in now, but as far as its message regarding country music is concerned, you often find yourself nodding along going “yep.”
That’s where the “Some Of It” comparisons come into play. Like that song, the comparisons made are somewhat vague. God and country music go together like whiskey and a prayer, they never really change, and they both show you the truth – you get the message here. Yet every now and then an excellent point arises, such as how the spirit of country music will never really fade away (hence the “Old School Country Song” comparisons). It’s still living in a small town or a honky-tonk somewhere. It’s not dead and never will be, but it’s still an American art form worth preserving. The song also cleverly points out how the genre is full of contradictions. There’s always “darkness in the I saw the light” (what a great line) and it’s full of sin and salvation. Basically, like faith in God, it’s a source of healing for an audience that we never fully understand even if it’s not a source for everyone.
With that said though, the song still mostly operates on finding clever comparisons to make its point, and while there are some excellent one-liners, it plays itself out after awhile. Still, like the aforementioned “Some Of It,” perhaps being simplistically vague was better for the song’s message, and there’s still a lot of truth behind what’s said.
And really, in the wrong hands, “God And Country Music” could come across as egregiously mawkish or preachy in the wrong hands, and that’s why Strait himself may be the best part of the track. This is a veteran artist who dominated the country music genre for three decades. It’s safe to say he’s seen it all, and there’s a grounded sincerity in his performance. He believes in country music because it’s his life, and no one would ever doubt his dedication to preserving its spirit. He’s serious in his performance, but not to the point where it feels over the top. Again, the entire point is to walk away and say, “hey, he’s got a point.”
“God And Country Music” was admittedly a harder song to discuss than I thought it’d be, but it’s an example of a song where the excellent execution makes up for its somewhat clumsy foundation. If nothing else, it’s a song that definitely belongs in Strait’s catalog, and thankfully it’s another solid release from one of country music’s most consistent performers.