There is little to be said for most country music these days. George Strait is the shining exception.
Strait and his Ace in the Hole Band brought a pure country music show to Thompson Boling Arena Friday night and played to a packed house. It was a true country music fan's delight.
Opening with "The Fireman," Strait launched into a nearly two hour set of pretty love songs and rodeo tunes, up-tempo cuts and a little Western Swing. There was little interplay between songs and no theatrics.
Strait doesn't need it because unlike most modern country artists, he is actually talented, letting his music speak for itself.
His sound hasn't changed much since his first hit, "Unwound," was released in 1981. And that's been the secret to his success. Twenty-four years later, Strait has earned 51 number one hits, more than anyone in country music history.
Highlights of the night included Terry Stafford's classic rodeo tear-jerker "Amarillo By Morning," the gentle "Tell Me Something Bad About Tulsa" and an inspired cover of Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues." Strait peppered his show with several country classics, including Bob Wills' "Take Me Back to Tulsa" and "Milk Cow Blues."
If audience reaction is any judge, pure country music still has an eager audience.
Strait got a big hand for his late 1990s hit, "Murder on Music Row," a song about the ruination of traditional country music by profit-minded Nashville record producers who sold the music's roots out in favor of a thinly disguised pop sound.
"They thought no one would buy them old drinkin' and cheatin' songs," the song says.
After all these years, though, George Strait is still singing them --- still selling albums and packing arenas. One gets the sense that his music will be around long after all of the wanna bes have faded into the sunset.