The Road Less Traveled (MCA Nashville)

If it ended today, sings George Strait, I've been all the way. My life's been grand.

Those words are from "My Life's Been Grand," the gently swinging Merle Haggard tune that closes George's 21st studio album, The Road Less Traveled. After two decades of dominating country music, it's only natural that on songs like this one and the mellow, rolling title cut, George sounds like a man looking back at the path he's cut before forging onward.

The Road Less Traveled isn't all so philosophical, though. There's time for romance, certainly - George presses a lover to give in to her feelings in "Don't Tell Me You're Not In Love," while the mesmerizing hit "Run" finds the singer himself a slave to the same emotional helplessness. There's also a party going on along this Road - George romps through the Del Reeves classic "Good Time Charley's" and celebrates a similar watering hole in Rodney Crowell's 1981 hit "Stars On The Water." Musically, George keeps things pure and simple as always, and doesn't gussy up the well-chosen songs with a lot of bells and whistles.

At the middle of this Road, of course, is George's voice. It would be hard to find a singer with a clearer respect for the words he's singing, or who sounds more sure-footed delivering them. That's what makes taking this trip down The Road Less Traveled such a pleasure: The driver knows exactly where he's going, so we can just enjoy the ride.

- Chris Neal

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