Saturday, February 24, 2007

Pure 'Strait' country

After all these years, it's still his best song.

"Amarillo by mornin', up from San Antone, everything that I've got, is just what I've got on..."

I hear that opening line, wait for the twin fiddles to blend together, and suddenly I'm six years old again.

Dad and I are whiling away a lazy Saturday afternoon by the radio. We keep pestering the disc jockey at WIVK to play our favorite George Strait rodeo song.
The DJ finally comes on and says, "I'll play 'Amarillo By Morning' if those two guys from Halls will quit calling."

There's something to be said for being a jackass.

Strait packed 'em in last night at Thompson Boling Arena. Twenty-seven years after his first No. 1 hit, he's still the very best of the modern breed of country music singers. No one else comes close.

George doesn't need to swing from ropes or hide behind overblown pyrotechnics. Naw, he just comes out in his pressed cowboy jeans, blue shirt and black cowboy hat, straps on an acoustic guitar and sings.

One by one, the hits come. "The Chair." "The Fireman." "I Can Still Make Cheyenne."

He specializes in Texas songs. The best one of all is about that lonesome cowboy trying to make the next rodeo.

"I'll be lookin' for 8 when they pull that gate, and I hope that judge ain't blind. Amarillo by mornin', Amarillo's on my mind..."

Ronnie Milsap opens for him tonight. Ronnie sounds great, especially on "It Was Almost Like A Song" (he can still hit the high note!) and the crowd favorite, "Smoky Mountain Rain."

But it's George the fans have come to see; he's the one who gets the biggest hand. His newer songs aren't as good as the classics, but one or two come pretty close. All the Texas numbers are good. So is a brand spankin' new tune, "I'm Not Her Cowboy Anymore."

Special treats are the Bob Wills classic "Take Me Back To Tulsa" and a surprise rendition of Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues."

Strait has managed to survive all the trends in country music. I think it's because he's stayed true to his roots, never lost his sound, is still dancin' with the one that brung him to the party.

But at the end of the night, when the lights go up and the roadies tear down the stage, his best song is still that Terry Stafford tear-jerker he started playing in the Texas honky tonks back in the late 70s.

"Amarillo by morning, Amarillo's where I'll be..."

Man, listen to those twin fiddles hum. Now that, friends, is country music.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

gave me chills just to read about it. I was freezing my ass off in the Smokies thinking that it would be a great day to camp! HA. Meanwhile, you're enjoying George & Ronnie.....let's just say that I was more than a little jealous!!

8:56 AM  

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