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For the Last Time

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Album Review

The "For the Last Time" in the title does not refer to the last concert George Strait ever gave, nor does this suggest that this is a farewell to live albums; in fact, it's the first live album Strait has ever released. The "last time" refers to the last concert of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo ever given in the Houston Astrodome, a show that Strait headlined, breaking records by drawing 68,266 people, the largest audience the venue ever saw (for the record, he top-lined the first Livestock Show at its new home, Reliant Stadium). This was a big, big occasion — highlighted by an on-stage guest spot by former President George Herbert Walker Bush, where number 41 proclaimed that "everyone in Texas loves him and everyone across this country loves his music" — so it makes perfect sense that it would be commemorated with an audio souvenir, and For the Last Time isn't bad at all on those terms. Its biggest problem is its nature: it captures a big-stage, big-sound production, where it's about the spectacle as much as the music, so when it's presented as a CD, it's not as exciting as the concert, nor is it as exciting as many of his straight studio records. It's professional, well-performed, and enjoyable without being dynamic, surprising, or lively; it never feels as lived-in or real as the best of Strait's music. Part of the reason for that is the song selection, which is heavy on ballads and mid-tempo numbers, de-emphasizing harder country and Western swing. When they do go for purer country, such as on the death-of-country-music lament "Murder on Music Row," it sounds great, but this is not about gritty country, this is a soundtrack to spectacle. It's fine as that, but it's not the great live George Strait album it could have been.


Born: 18 May 1952 in Poteet, TX

Genre: Country

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Out of all the country singers to emerge in the 1980s, George Strait stayed the closest to traditional country. Drawing from both the honky tonk and Western swing traditions, Strait didn't refashion the genres; instead, he revitalized them. In the process, he became one of the most popular and influential singers of the era, sparking a wave of neo-traditionalist singers from Randy Travis and Dwight Yoakam to Clint Black, Garth Brooks, and Alan Jackson. Strait was born and raised in Texas, the son...
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