At the start of this year, I said, in a review of King George’s It Just Comes Natural:
“How ‘Bout Them Cowgirls” is a case in point: Strait’s been happily married to his high-school sweetheart for around 35 years, yet this airy, steel-guitar-kissed ode to cowgirls sounds completely honest and believable coming from his golden throat. (It helps that the song’s not a Trace Adkins-esque lust-charged ode but a simple “Aren’t they great, aren’t they somethin’?” tribute.) No one evokes the wide-open spaces of the North American plains the way Strait does, and no one does it better, either. It’s his best single song since 2001’s “Run.”
I’m glad I got this one right (it was, in fact, the only song on the album I made a point of singling out for praise). I’ve been listening to it quite a bit lately, due to his performance of it on the CMA Awards and its lead-off position on the new 22 More Hits (quibble with that album: where the hell is “Give It Away”?), and it’s a sure bet for my Nashville Scene ballot – this is near-perfect country music, contemporary and timeless (cliché but true). Hell, but for a few production tweaks, this damned near could’ve come out 30 years ago. Tony Brown mixes a subtle string section in with the song’s inherent, necessary twang expertly, while Strait gives yet another assured, lovely (really) vocal to a lyric that deserves it. This isn’t just an ode to cowgirls, but really to all independent women – it’s almost the gender-flipped version of Shania’s “She’s Not Just A Pretty Face,” only better. Thank God Strait’s still making records like this, because someone needs to be, and it might as well be the one who’s best at it.