Twenty-five years ago today (September 15), George Strait released the album that would prove to the most successful of his career -- the motion picture soundtrack to his film debut, Pure Country.
Known for his blend of traditional country sounds and western swing, the album represented somewhat of a departure for the singer. First of all, it was the first pairing with the legendary Tony Brown producing the singer -- after a seven-year creative partnership with Jimmy Bowen. Secondly, the music was a little different -- a little more in your face than anything that Strait had cut in his career to that point.
But, then again, the singer wasn’t George Strait: He was playing the role of Dusty Chandler, so it was understandable that he would veer outside of his musical stylings a bit. As we look back on the greatest commercial triumph from the singer -- which is also being re-issued on vinyl in a silver anniversary edition -- let’s count down the album’s performances from top to bottom, and pay tribute to “Dusty” one more time!
10. George Strait - "She Lays It All On The Line"
Playing a movie character allowed Strait to paint outside of his normal lines as a recording artist a bit, as this swagger-filled cut demonstrated a different side of his personality. But, the rocking tune wasn’t a total departure, as the song was written by Clay Blaker, who is one of the singer’s top go-to writers -- first connecting with the singer in 1982 with “The Only Thing That I Have Left,” from the Strait From the Heart album.
9. George Strait - "When Did You Stop Loving Me"
One of three Pure Country singles from the soundtrack, this traditional number was in stark contrast to many of the other songs on the radio during the spring months of 1993. The song -- which hit No. 6 on the Country Songs chart - also inspired a cover version by another George -- Jones, one of Strait’s biggest musical heroes.
8. George Strait - "Where The Sidewalk Ends"
The Pure Country soundtrack album was one of the first to feature George Strait songs from the pen of Jim Lauderdale, but it would not be the last. The legendary artist became enamored with Lauderdale’s retro-sounding style, as this co-write with John Leventhal became a critical piece of the Pure Country soundtrack puzzle.
7. George Strait - "Heartland"
This song was featured twice in the film -- once in a slower version as part of the film’s opening, with Strait’s son “Bubba” sharing the spotlight with his father -- as well as the single version, which served as an integral element in the Dusty Chandler stage show.
6. George Strait - "Thoughts Of A Fool"
Though Strait was free to dabble with a few different sounds in the soundtrack to this film, many of the songs were right on point -- such as this Mel Tillis / Wayne Walker collaboration that was recorded prior by no less an expert on the classic country sound than “The Texas Troubadour,” Ernest Tubb.
5. George Strait - "I Cross My Heart"
The Pure Country soundtrack wound up being a huge bonanza for songwriter Steve Dorff, who co-penned both “Heartland” and this romantic number -- which served as the emotional centerpiece of the film when Strait performed it for Isabel Glasser’s female lead, Harley Tucker. Both Dorff songs wound up being No. 1 hits for the singer - and a frequent wedding song ever since.
4. George Strait - "Baby Your Baby"
Lyrically, this song wasn’t anything too special. But, Tony Brown’s production combined with Strait’s playful touch made this one of the highlights of the Pure Country soundtrack - a winning performance that should have been a single.
3. George Strait - "The King Of Broken Hearts"
As legend has it, this Jim Lauderdale-penned song was inspired by Jones -- who Lauderdale played in a Ryman Auditorium production based upon the life and career of Tammy Wynette. Strait poured himself into the lyrics of the song, which would also leave an imprint on future duet partner Lee Ann Womack, who recorded it in 2008.
2. George Strait - "Last In Love"
As “George Strait,” the singer might have never recorded a song from the pen of J.D. Souther and Glenn Frey - at least in 1992, when the Pure Country soundtrack was recorded. But, as “Dusty,” the singer was willing to stretch a bit, and this heartfelt sentiment was a true high point of this album.
1. George Strait - "Overnight Male"
With 44 No. 1 hits on the Billboard Country Songs chart, one likely wouldn’t say that George Strait left many hits on the table. However, this fun and lively track -- from the collective pens of Kim Williams, Ron Harbin, and Richard Fagan - hit the singles charts strictly as an album cut, without one ounce of radio promotion -- long before that was a normal occurrence when an album is released. Had MCA Nashville went one single deeper into the Pure Country soundtrack, this one could have been huge.