George Strait collaborates with son on new album

Sunday, August 23, 2009 at 11:45pm

George Strait
(MCA Nashville)

The great George Strait offers fans some new twists on his 26th studio release.

One has him contributing three tunes co-written with his son George “Bubba’ Strait Jr., marking the first time on disc in over 27 years that Strait has showcased his own writing on any project.

The best of their collaborations is the sentimental work “Living for the Night,” though the dance-oriented piece “He’s Got That Something Special” has an impressive rhythmic verve and bounce.

But perhaps an even bigger surprise is his rendition of Jose Alfredo Jimenez’s “El Rey,” a number that’s acquired legendary status within the Latino end of the country world due to Vicente Fernandez’s magnificent version.

Strait handles this ranchera number smoothly, even negotiating the Spanish in respectable fashion. Delbert McClinton also provides a fine tune (“Same Kind of Crazy”) to another first-rate piece in the glittering George Strait legacy.

The Apples in Stereo
#1 Hits Explosion
(Yep Roc)

Robert Schneider’s quirky, catchy lyrics and ability to infuse his contemporary material with influences, lines and hooks from ‘60s British invasion bands have been trademarks of The Apples in Stereo over its string of successful releases dating back to the group’s early ‘90s EP’s and Elephant 6 albums.

This new anthology collects their most popular tunes, among them “Same Old Drag,” “Can You Feel It,” “Go!” and “The Rainbow,” plus a radio remix of “Tidal Wave.”

Despite some personnel changes and label shifts, consistent reasons for the band’s success include rhythm guitarist John Hill’s licks and refrains and bassist Eric Allen’s steady teamwork with various keyboardists and drummers.

They’ve managed to be both retro and hip, and this collection demonstrates their flair in both areas.

Keri Hilson
In a Perfect World

One of urban and contemporary R&B’s best songwriters, Keri Hilson, moves to the forefront on In a Perfect World, making a generally good showing as a performer.

Occasionally she willingly takes a back seat to her better known colleagues like Kanye West & Ne-Yo on “Knock You Down” or Keysia Cole & Trina on “Get Your Money Up.”

But on other occasions, most notably the songs “Slow Dance,” “How Does It Feel” and “Energy,” Hilson displays more personality and vocal power and authority than anticipated.

She’s still a better songwriter than vocalist, but acquits herself well enough even when matched with the likes of Akon (“Change Me”) or Lil Wayne (“Turning Me On”) to indicate that she might eventually make inroads singing rather than shopping her compositions.

Justin Moore
Justin Moore

Musical mergers between country and southern rock are a new thing, but Justin Moore’s take on that blend is both extremely personal and expertly conceived.

His debut has both traditional pieces with poignant messages (“How I Got To Be This Way,” “Backwoods,” “The Only Place I Call Home”) and more humorous, irreverent and rowdy numbers like “Back That Thing Up,” the lead single that generated enormous online interest weeks before the disc’s Aug. 11 release date.

But the song that’s gotten Moore widespread attention throughout the country world is “Small Town USA,” a song that zoomed into the iTunes Top 10 almost immediately, and remains one of its hottest numbers among any performer.

The combination of modern swagger and vintage feeling is something you hear quite often on every Moore number, and it’s that mix that’s making Justin Moore a rousing success.

Various Artists
Taking Woodstock

Ang Lee’s comedy take on the legendary Woodstock festival doesn’t open until next week, but the soundtrack CD offers both studio and live tunes by several bands and/or performers who appeared at the original event.

Richie Havens’ fiery fresh version of “Freedom” (the song that closed his powerhouse opening set 40 years ago) is among the better performances. Also of note is an excellent tune from The Band (“I Shall Be Released”), a group that has not turned up on any of the numerous Woodstock retrospectives or anthologies.

Definitive works from Janis Joplin, Melanie, Canned Heat and The Paul Butterfield Blues Band are also included on the CD.

This isn’t remotely a substitute for the invaluable six-disc Woodstock set or the twin reissues from bands like Santana and Sly and The Family Stone, but it does offer a decent sampling of what happened at the landmark concert.