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The raving thoughts of a misanthropic academic

June 28, 2008

Song of the Week: Troubadour

In an age where people and artists continually reinvent themselves, I have come to appreciate consistency. Going on nearly four decades in country music, George Strait is a bastion of tradition in a sea of ever changing artists. Last weekend I stumbled across George Strait's new Troubadour album and was pleased to see that the King of Country still has it.

With one song from the new album already atop the country billboards, Strait's stipped-down version of country music has made him the stuff of legend. The most obvious example of this nearly minimalist style is found in the first single on the album eponymously titled Troubadour. The song is at points both wistful and self-affirming. It's unique simplicity earns it the title, Pax Plena Song of the Week.

Country music fans will appreciate that the songs on the entire album are pure George Strait. Far from having the rock flourishes of a Keith Urban, George Strait's brand of country music reminds one of driving dusty roads in West Texas. With Strait, the generic trappings of Nashville are displaced for want of Frio County, Texas. The music is real.

In terms of sound, the drive of the album is obviously Strait's voice, but its instrumentation is guided by the pure strum of an acoustic guitar, and the crying fiddle that personifies country music. A small trap set keeps beat, but its role in the song is far subordinate to the elements mentioned above.

But what makes Troubadour stand out from an impressive gallery of songs on the album is its lyrics. The words of the song force one to consider self-definition. Because Strait's music style, already has quite the established definition, the challenge in the lyrics comes with authority.

For instance, in the chorus, the singer muses that even as old age approaches some goals remain the same (viz., still trying to make a name), though they have now been tempered by a profound self-assurance (viz., Knowing nothing's gonna change what I am). This simple introspection strikes at the heart of the very negotiation made between ambition and definition. For those who resolve the conflict, there is no need to fret comparisons with others because we are who we are at the end of the day. Take it or leave it. I would submit that most folks can relate to the questions posed. The problems the song presents are just as relevant in Pearsall, TX as they are in New York City.

George Strait reminds us that in some ways we are all troubadours. Our songs are simply different.

Please enjoy the Pax Plena Song of the Week, Troubadour in the video below. Lyrics follow after the jump.





Troubadour
By George Strait

I still feel 25,
most of the time.
I still raise a little cain with the boys.
Honky tonk and pretty woman.
Lord I'm still right there with them.
Singing above the crowd and the noise.

(Chorus)
Sometimes I feel like Jesse James,
Still trying to make a name.
Knowing nothings gonna change what I am.
I was a young troubadour,
when I rode in on a song.
and I'll be an old troubadour,
when I'm gone.

Well, The truth about a mirror,
It's that a damn old mirrow.
Don't really tell the whole truth,
It don't show what's deep inside.
Oh read between the lines,
it's really no reflection of my youth.

(Repeat Chorus)

I was a young troubadour,
when I rode in on a song.
and I'll be an old troubadour,
when I'm gone.
I'll be an old troubadour,
when I'm gone.
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