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Country - To be released March 29, 2019 | MCA Nashville
Austin's famed dancehall the Broken Spoke adorns the cover of Honky Tonk Time Machine, George Strait's 30th album. Look closely and it's possible to see a hint of the new apartment buildings that crowd this historic landmark: it's there on the right side, peeking into a frame that deliberately cuts out these modern monstrosities. This is all the better to present the Broken Spoke as the physical embodiment of the titular Honky Tonk Time Machine, a place that sends the listener back to another era. Strait's music -- always the same, always changing -- is a honky tonk time machine of its own, of course, adhering to traditions that seemed old-fashioned even when he delivered his debut, Strait Country, back in 1981. Honky Tonk Time Machine belongs in the same universe as Strait Country -- it may not have much in the way of Western Swing, but it's filled with barroom ballads, twanging shuffles, and a hint of Old Mexico -- but it's clearly and proudly the work of a veteran, one who isn't concerned with keeping up with trends. Working again with producer Chuck Ainlay and singing many songs co-written with his son Bubba and Dean Dillon, Strait doesn't attempt much new -- the biggest wrinkle is how he finally gets to "Sing One with Willie," a knowing, overdue, and delightful duet with Nelson, the other undisputed king of Texas country -- and in some respects, he trumpets that he's out of step with the times. Strait celebrates "God and Country Music," a sentimental ballad that gets sticky when kids are brought in for a chorus, and he sings about "The Weight of the Badge," a plaintive tribute to police that could be read as a protest within the charged climate of 2019. Of course, Strait doesn't throw bombs: "The Weight of the Badge" is nuanced and humanistic, qualities that animate the entirety of Honky Tonk Time Machine. Whether he's performing an ode to tequila, juke joints, or covering Johnny Paycheck's "Old Violin," Strait sings with humor, tenderness, and ease, qualities that lend the deliberately nostalgic Honky Tonk Time Machine grace, resonance, and depth. Perhaps this isn't a new trick for Strait, but it's one to be cherished nonetheless. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Country in the magazine
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First Aid Kit, once upon a time in America...
When they released The Big Black And The Blue in 2010, Johanna and Klara Söderberg were 20 and 23 years old respectively. The two Swedish sisters quickly made a name for themselves at the top of the charts thanks to their covers of songs by Fleet Foxes, Lorde, Jack White and even Black Sabbath… T...