Liner Note Authors: George Strait; Michael McCall.
Photographers: Jarrett Gaza; Mark Tucker .
From the early 1980s onward, there's been no greater champion of traditional country-music values in the mainstream (and none more successful) than George Strait. Like a virtual Ramones of country, he's remained unshakeable in his devotion to a straightforward, no-frills aesthetic of which he's become the unquestioned standard-bearer. This populist stance has accordingly resounded with huge numbers of listeners; if you thought it was impressive when Alabama released a hits collection containing 40 Number One country hits, try Strait's 50 NUMBER ONES on for size.
In keeping with Strait's singular approach, the passage of time is difficult to notice here. From the wistful 1982 lost-love tale "Fool Hearted Memory" to the one new song, 2004's "I Hate Everything," Strait's amiable mix of honky-tonk, Western Swing, and bar-room ballads is remarkably consistent, providing the perfect framework for each sentiment just as comfortably as his warm, inviting voice serves the songs. Unlike many artists' best-of collections, there's no chronological peak beyond which the hits stop coming; 50 NUMBER ONES contains just as many latter-day smashes as early chart-toppers, a testament to the remarkable staying power and clarity of vision that make George Strait a star.