It’s sort of a big week for reigning “King of Country” George Strait. Not just because he turns 61 this week. And not just because he released his 40th studio album, Love Is Everything, this week. (The record is really good; it’s classic George Strait; it’s old-school country; you should buy it; blah blah blah.)
No, it’s also a big week for Strait because of his continuing chart success. This week, Billboard reports that his latest single from Love Is Everything, titled “Give It All We Got Tonight,” broke into the Hot Country Top 10. This marks a whopping 86 times Strait has landed a Top 10 country hit, making him the second most prolific chart-topper in the history of charting. Eddy Arnold’s record currently stands at 92 Top-10s, while recently-passed icon George Jones holds the number 3 slot at 78 Top-10s.
Oh, and by the way…Strait already holds the record for most Number 1 hits, not just in country, but in any genre. If this song hits Number 1, it will be his 45th.
Perhaps the most significant thing about all this is the simple fact that George Strait has made almost no attempt to modernize his sound. Unlike today’s hot country artists who sometime sound more rock or pop than country, Strait’s sound is firmly rooted in old-school styles, ever drawing from his dusty home state of Texas for influence and inspiration. Likewise, if you ever get the chance to see him in concert (which if you want to, you should do it soon—he’s planning to retire from touring in 2014), you won’t see elaborate light shows, fog, heavy electric guitars, or anything like it. Instead, you’ll see George Strait at a mic, calmly playing his guitar and singing with the band behind him. And somehow, with this simple, understated approach, the King of Country has managed to out-chart all of his contemporaries (including the young upstarts), as well as out-selling most of them.
What does this mean? I think it means that despite all the conventional wisdom that demands louder, bigger, brighter, and more in-your-face productions for today’s audiences, at the bottom of it all, country fans still appreciate simple, just-plain-good country music. George Strait has built one of country music’s most consistent and solid careers doing just that.