George Strait

Honky Tonk Time Machine (MCA)

Texas Platters

Nominally retired from the road to collect his rightful Vegas residency payday, George Strait, 66, continues to churn out reliably mediocre albums guaranteed to top the country charts. At some point, the King's neo-trad country became an easy safety net bringing up the rear of the genre rather than trying to improve it. Zero surprise, then, that the likely hit of Honky Tonk Time Machine is hard-cringing Lori McKenna co-write "God and Country Music," which declares "they both never really change." Elsewhere "Two More Wishes" and "Blue Water" deliver banal beachside anthems, "The Weight of the Badge" carries the dutiful ballad, and opener "Every Little Honky Tonk Bar" and the boogieing title track recall the Brooks & Dunn Nineties. Even the closing Willie Nelson duet simply rehashes getting to sing with his fellow Texan. Like Austin's Broken Spoke on the album cover, Strait endures unapologetically unchanged while the world churns around him.

**


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