George Strait 'The Cowboy Rides Away' - Humphead

This recording of George Strait’s final record-breaking attendance concert from the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas is already raising some controversy due to the alleged use of Auto-Tune throughout. This is something that is hotly debated online. What you get is a star studded event that finds some of Strait’s best known and loved songs given the live in concert treatment. Over the 20 tracks you have a rake of duets with such guests as Vince Gill, Jason Aldean, Eric Church, Sheryl Crow, Martina McBride, Faith Hill, Kenny Chesney, Martina Lambert, Alan Jackson and Strait’s son Bubba.

Strait’s long time Ace in the Hole Band does a fine job throughout, but the surprising thing is how flat it whole thing sounds overall. Why is difficult to figure out, as, if anything, it should have sounded like a huge celebration with songs like Marina Del Ray, Ocean Front Property, All My Ex’s Live in Texas, The Chair, Here for a Good Time and Murder on Music Row. The guest stars represent a mix of old hands and the new breed and I doubt the seasoned performers like Vince Gill or Alan Jackson would ever need outside assistance to sing in tune. In fact, the duet of Strait and Jackson on the attack on the direction that radio and the labels were heading is a highlight on the album.

When you have released as many albums as Strait has, the choice of final songs is always going to be difficult as fans will feel has missed out one of their own favourites. In the 20 tracks he has chosen he mixes songs from different points in his career so that fans are bound to have firm favourites. All My Ex’s Live in Texas finds all the guests onstage for the choruses. The final song, the title track, finds Strait thanking the audience and guests for their support and he also says that, like Schwarzenegger character quote “I’ll be back”. So while this is his live swan sing (for now) he is likely to deliver further studio albums. It’s just a shame that this album, to some ears, doesn’t sound quite like it should. Others however will enjoy this souvenir of a steadfastly traditionalist entertainer.