Picks and Pans Review: Beyond the Blue Neon

updated 03/27/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/27/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

George Strait

It would be tempting to say that on this album Strait indulges his passion for Western swing to a fault—except that the results sound so good. After 10 albums, Strait himself has perfected his Eddy Arnold-Merle Haggard style into a smooth purr that's just the right thing for slightly wounded-sounding ballads such as "Leavin's Been Comin' (for a Long, Long Time)." And Strait, who has been married only once (and still is), does have a penchant for singing about the afflictions of the multidivorced, as he does on the Wayland Patton-Larry Cordle-Jeff Tanguay tune "Hollywood Squares": "I've got so many exes/ And owe so much/ I ought to be on the Hollywood Squares." Whatever the tempo, though, Strait and co-producer Jimmy Bowen leave plenty of soloing room for his backup musicians, especially steel guitarist Paul Franklin, pianist Floyd Domino and fiddler Johnny Gimble. Gimble's fluid, tuneful fills make a particular point, since he is an alumnus of the Bob Wills band, the primordial Texas swingers whose music Strait rightfully admires so much. If Strait had been born 40 or 50 years earlier, he would have fit right into Wills's Texas Playboys, and they would have been much the better for it.(MCA)

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