ACM’s “Artist of the Decade”: George Strait Review (Aired 05.27.09)

Rumors of my death are not clear, nor are they true.  I’ve been wanting to post but kept putting it off and did not have the time to execute it.  This review was a good way to get something in, without it being a recommendation.  I’m hoping this does not take too much time to write lol (but hopefully, still be long), so here goes!

Yeah my review is a bit postponed… it’s about a week and a half later and people probably don’t care about it anymore.  I ended up watching the tribute show the next evening after it aired because my eyes were glued to the Nuggets vs. Lakers game that night (my team lost, of course lol)…but anyway, I’ve been looking forward to this tribute show ever since I heard about it months ago.  The taping for this show took place the night after the ACM Awards in April.  George Strait is THE man and my favorite artist of all time, and it’s so cool to see this (sometimes) fine lineup of artists honoring him by performing his songs from throughout his career.  Overall, I immensely enjoyed and wish CBS would air re-runs so more people could see it.

Sugarland opening the show with their version of “Adalida”.  I usually don’t care for Jennifer Nettles‘s voice, but it worked really well here and you could tell she and the guy were passionate about it.  Though the lyrics are more suited for a male, it didn’t matter.  Love that Cajun feel!  YouTube performance video link.

Toby Keith followed with “Unwound”.  It had noticeably a slightly updated production but still kept the same basic sound, and Toby did an excellent job.  I haven’t heard his voice sound this good and spirited in years!  You don’t hear this song too often (unless you play it on iTunes), so it was a treat to hear it on here.  YouTube performance video link.

One of my personal favorites, Brooks & Dunn were next.  They chose, well Ronnie Dunn chose, for them to sing “The Cowboy Rides Away”.  This is a fine example of how well traditional country, a theme of cowboys, and B&D go together.  It even got Kix Brooks to sing along, in more than just harmony, equally on the chorus.  I really loved that, and Ronnie sang the hell out of the song.  YouTube performance video link.

The following performance was unique.  First, because the song choice is one of my least favorite Strait songs ever, and a song I don’t ever really listen to: “It Ain’t Cool to Be Crazy About You”.  The production on the original song, IMO, is so so boring and poppy, but with the second surprise, that being a duet of the song with Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton, it was given new life and a more than tolerable listen.  They did a sweet job and it was nice to watch (Blake was also really funny in his opening words in regards to his Pure Country ode).  YouTube performance video link.

In a change to a non-Strait part of the evening, in a nod to past Decade Artist honorees, they added them into the show, with Keith Urban performing a medley of Marty Robbins‘s hits [“Singing the Blues”, “El Paso”, “A White Sport Coat (And a Pink Carnation)”].  I admit that Urban’s voice sounded good, but I still don’t buy him as a country singer, so the covers, to me, felt awkward and took too long.  He did better than three other people though, so I’ll consider it “OK”.  YouTube performance video link.

And here we go with the always pleasant John Rich… I winced when I discovered he was a part of this, but I gave him a listen since his voice is not bad.  His performance of “Amarillo by Morning” was very karaoke-like and nothing really special, though.  Very mediocre and forgettable.  I forgot what the tape said on the back of his guitar, but I remember I thought it was cool.  Anyway, anyone agree that it’s time to be shuttin’ John Rich down?

In another paid tribute to a past honoree, it was Faith Hill covering “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man)” for Loretta Lynn.  I liked it.  Faith doesn’t perform anything that country, or traditional-country sounding these days, so it was a pleasant surprise and very welcome.  However, I wish she got to perform a Strait song.  YouTube performance video link.

Now… THE performance of the night, in my honest opinion, was Jamey Johnson and Lee Ann Womack‘s stunning version of “Give It Away”.  I had seen them rehearse it and perform it live in concert on Womack’s website and on YouTube, so I heard it already somewhat, but it was amazing to see it on TV.  I love how they slowed it down and made it into a duet.  How special it was that Jamey, as one of the song’s co-writers, was able to sing this, and that Lee Ann, a huge Strait fan and fellow Texan, got to sing this too.  My mouth opened wide in a smile when I saw how they re-did this with Jamey singing the verses and Lee Ann at the chorus with the female perspective.  Just incredible.  Long live true country music.  YouTube performance video link.

Continuing on with the greatness, Jack Ingram rocked out “All My Ex’s Live In Texas” adding his own signature sound to it.  This is one of my other favorite performances.  Still sounded hard-core country with a Texan-twang rock to it.  Awesome.  YouTube performance video link.

Next Decade Artist honor was for Alabama with Montgomery Gentry.  They did a decent version of “Mountain Music”.  I could have totally gone without all that damn Eddie mic-spinning though lol.  YouTube performance video link.

Unfortunately, everyone was thrown back with a very poppy, bland crack at “Run” by Taylor Swift.  I actually thought she might do alright with it, but the vocal sounded very computer-edited like and the production was different, with less country and more poppy.  You couldn’t even tell it was the same song, and while it is a pop-country song, the country aspect brought to it by Strait, was all-but-removed from here. Yuck.  YouTube performance video link.

Now one of the more entertaining acts was Jamie Foxx.  I never would have guessed he would perform on this.  He told about growing up in Texas and about when George came to his town, and he wanted so badly to see him, but couldn’t.  Foxx gave a very soulful R&B-infused take of “You Look So Good In Love”, and even with the corny humorous add-ins, it was a welcome change of sound and look to the lineup.  YouTube performance video link.

Alan Jackson, my number two favorite, took stage to perform “The Fireman” and delivered a spirited vocal.  “Murder On Music Row” would have been awesome hehe (Might be hard not to look at Swift during that, I’d imagine).  Alan sang this for George at his Hall of Fame ceremony too.  YouTube performance video link.

I think I’m getting the order right so far, but I’m not sure exactly where LeAnn Rimes was in there.  She did “Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind?”.  She did a swell job and I enjoyed it.  Great to hear from a Texan.  She could have sang a cheating song… would have made it more fun.  YouTube performance video link.

I believe Dierks Bentley was next.  I gotta say this: “Blue Clear Sky” is probably my most favorite song of all time, because I tie it to my childhood and good times, so when I heard Dierks was singing it, I was furious.  Sometimes I like him, sometimes I don’t.  I still think he seems like a poser, but can do a good job when he really tries, and is not selling out and trying to be Kenny Chesney or some rocker.  Anyway, I’m glad to say his cover was shortened a lot!  I think like a verse or two was cut out and it was like a minute, seriously.  His voice didn’t sound right and my sister, a HUGE Dierks fan agreed.  Alan would have been a good choice to do this.  YouTube performance video link.

Next up was Martina McBride honoring Garth Brooks as the Decade Artists for the ’90s.  She sang one of his best songs, “The Dance” and as expected, did a beautiful job.  I still prefer Garth’s though :) .  Btw, why didn’t he perform anything?!?  YouTube performance video link.

Tim McGraw delivered an impressive version of “Marina Del Ray”.  That’s another song of George’s I don’t like much but Tim outdid him here, I gotta say.  Tim’s vocals really shined, I thought.  YouTube performance video link.

Lee Ann Womack returned to the tribute stage to “Stand There and Sing”, and really close the night of artists with a pretty slow tune written about the King of Country, and his techniques for success all these years.  YouTube performance video link.

Finally, the man himself, George Strait got up from his seat on the side, which he was sitting the whole time with his wife, son, and another guest, to sing his classic, “Ocean Front Property”.  No one can sing it like him, and you gotta love a song that mentions Arizona (well, at least I do!).

All the artists came back on, and the conclusion was a sing-a-long, Opry-style to “Troubadour”.  It was quite evident some artists didn’t know the words to it lol.  YouTube performance video link.

Some things I wanted to point out: I kinda wish the tribute show was like ten years ago, so maybe people like Patty Loveless, Mark Chesnutt, Vince Gill, etc. could have performed, instead of some of these newer guys/girls (we would have never had the Womack/Johnson duet though so maybe not).  I would have also loved more Strait songs from the ’90s represented, but oh well.  I’m sure there are more Strait tributes with other Strait songs in the future!


Best: Jamey Johnson & Lee Ann Womack – “Give It Away”

Worst: Taylor Swift – “Run” / John Rich – “Amarillo by Morning” / Dierks Bentley – “Blue Clear Sky”




  1. Ha. Some of our observations were similar and others were quite different. Good recap though. I’m with you about the nineties though. I think a better tribute show would have happened then. I could come up with quite a set list for artists from that decade.

    • Yeah, I really enjoyed reading yours and other peoples’ thoughts on it. It was awesome. I would have thought songs like “Carried Away”, “Carrying Your Love With Me”, “Check Yes or No”, “Write This Down” would be there. I would have loved a traditional slow country song be sung like “I Can Still Make Cheyenne” or something.

  2. Shut up and get a grip you complete idiot.Taylor did a great job..of course it was more poppy…thats her type of music country-pop…
    Whats the need to be dissing a 19 year old girl.
    Ok so if you don’t like her fair enough thats your opinion but a whole lot of people do like her and she wasnt computer-edited she sang live.Who the hell are you to judge people..Maybe if you had gotten up on that stage and sung in front of all those people then perharps you could judge…but your just a no-body dissing 19 year olds.

    • Some people would be really offended and delete this stuff, but I think its hilarious and find it more as a compliment to this site that I’m getting these now. Only thing missing from that is lots of exclamation points and bad spelling.

      Just goes into the archives to show what the usual type of fan who likes this kind of music is like (well, there are some really classy and friendly people who are fans, so they’re exempt).

      Made my laugh of the day. Maybe when you get into high school, you’ll realize there’s better things out there. Thank you for posting TSF! :)

  3. Normally I wouldn’t waste my time with responding to the likes of your rudness here to a country fan, but in this case I felt compelled.

    I read the review with an open mind and I too found your review to be incorrect about Miss Swift. It appears for whatever reason, you have this preconceived idea about her talent or should I say what you feel is her lack thereof. Then you review to her about ‘Murder on Music Row’ which is totally uncalled for.

    I’m a Sugarland fan, so before you respond to me also calling me a TSF, please refer to me as SFF, again another imature rude remark you made.

    In my opinion this is one of the best covers Miss Swift has done and she really sounded great! I do believe this is the first review I’ve read where she was given a bad one.

    It’s a pity you don’t care for Jennifers voice, but to each their own.

    A recommended read for you would be an article called ‘The Lefsetz letter – Tell me why’

    • Why was TSF rude? Those were the initials of the person CF was responding to.

    • I don’t see how anything I really put was “rude”. I simply stated an opinion and gave reasons for why I said it. I may have said it kinda bluntly but at least, I critiqued her performance and not her as a person (she seems like a really nice and fun person. I just think her music and her influence is bad for country music). I think the “Music Row” comment was totally called for.

      As Leeann commented, that’s just the initials for “Taylor Swift Fan” (TSF), which is not “immature” unless you’re admitting it’s an insult to refer to oneself as that.

      I have not read too too many reviews on the tribute show, but I’m sure I’ve read some bad ones on Swift’s performance. I didn’t think it was horrible, but very very weak, IMO.

      I think Jennifer is an awesome person, but I’m not a fan of her voice. It’s an acquired taste :).

      I’ll check it out. Ty.

      And even though I disagree with the points you raised, Deb, I want to thank you for saying it civil and not just simply badmouthing.

      Did you happen to agree with any of my thoughts on the other performances?

  4. Well, I have to disagree with you again here where you say, “I just think her music and her influence is bad for country music” of course refering to Miss Swift.

    I have a confession to make here. If it were not for Miss Swift, I wouldn’t be here on your blog, nor would I be a huge Sugarland fan now.

    You see I call myself a transplant, and the person who transplanted me over to country music was Miss Swift with her ‘Teardrops On My Guitar’ where since then I have heard and absolutely fell in love with Sugarland.

    So I guess in a sense you might call me a Miss Swift fan also. Now mind you, I don’t like every song, nor am I a hard core fan but I do appreciate her as an aritst, songwriter, producer,entertainer, person etc.

    Most of all I really appreaciate getting to hear and learn about country music now. Thanks to Miss Swift for getting me over to country, and my love of Sugarland I have since heard a few traditional but mostly not so traditional country artist.

    Now I know what the CMTs, ACMs & the CMAs are! (smile) I watch shows especially to see and listen to country artist now. I listen to country radio now, which was never the case 2 1/2 years ago. If I would have hit a county channel back then, I would have fliped right on through.

    Sugarland appearing on George Straits Tribute is why I watched and got to see and hear all the great artist performances, the reason for this blog period. Again, that originally comes back to Miss Taylor Swift for getting me over hear, so I do follow some of what is happening with her career.

    I just wanted to give credit where credit is due, and I did really enjoy Miss Swifts performance very much. Now mind you I had never heard the song ‘Run’ before that night nor had I heard ‘Adalida’ to be honest. I had only heard one song prior, and that was ‘All My Ex’s Live In Texas’ so I had to go do some George Strait surfing and comparing and a few other artist who were covered that night. I thought most of the artist did great jobs including Miss Swift. The one’s I really didn’t care for were the covers that were done by John Rich, and the duet by Miranda Lambert & Blake Shelton.

    I will leave it at that.
    Your country transplant,

  5. I do believe everyone did a great job honoring “Our Man George” I loved watching his reaction to their performances.
    I believe some of the newcomers, will be the reason Country
    will remain hot! I myself was country, before country wasn’t cool.I think Tim and Leeann Womack were the best.
    I am also a Keith fan, I do wish he would have song a George
    song, but he did a great job as always.
    I do believe George, when he thanked everyone who could be
    doing something else came and put on a great show for him
    and the fans.
    I have been on so many websites about this special
    night, does anyone know if they will air it again soon,
    or if a DVD will be made for sale?
    Any information will be appreciated.

    • I lost my recording, and would appreciate finding a dvd too buy. I thought it was an awesome show. Wife and i love all georges music. The program was done , like we have never witnessed before, no mc, people in audience singing along, just a great show. Thanks, Jerry Madden.

  6. I admit i was wow’ed by John RIch…not cause he sang the song cause he was there?? Did you see George’s face when JR came out LOL. So the question is…Is it true when a reporter asked him about JR’s performance that George said…”NO COMMENT” ouch! if its true of course I just heard that.

  7. Hey give me a break. Taylor Swift with “Run” was the preformance of the night. She really stole the song from King George and made it her own. I hope she will realise it on cd. I can’t listen til George Straits version anymore. It sounds like a bad copy now.

  8. “Taylor Swift performance of the night!” I DON’T THINK SO! I’m sorry to you fans that refuse to believe she cannot sing live.

    To the reviewer: I’m sorry you don’t care for Keith Urban because you don’t think he’s country. Neither is Jamie Foxx, but you loved his performance. I thought Keith did a great job and other places that reviewed the show also gave great kudos to Keith for his performance. Even the DJs on my station were raving about his performance. Oh well, everybody’s different. I do agree with your opinion of Dierks performance..awful and John Rich’s too!

  9. I’m not a big Taylor Swift fan. But she can sing live.

  10. Great review……..thank you for listing all the wonderful songs and artists and where to find them.
    Do you know if CBS plans to rerun the Artist of the Decade special? I lost my HD recording and would like to capture again. Thanks much and keep up the good work

    Jerry from Florida

  11. How can you not appreciate Taylor Swift’s version of Run? I’m not a big country music fan, but I’ve watched this tribute to Strait over and over.

  12. i love the way taylor swift sang the song.. she was amazing that night .. i felt in love with the song and i recorded it and cant help playing it again and again… she’s doing a great job for the country music… before i didnt really listen to country music..but nowadays i am so loving it… and the song RUN is a very sweet and lovely song… well done taylor swift and thank you george strait for this wonderful song…

  13. Very good recap and review. I almost completely agree with you. I genuinely enjoyed Jamie Foxx’s rendition of “You Look So Good in Love”, Alan’s version of “The Fireman”, and “The Cowboy Rides Away” by Brooks and Dunn. I also agree that John Rich’s performance of “Amarillo by Morning” was one of, if not the, worst showing of the night. In my opinion, that song should not have been performed by anyone but George, and having someone like Rich sing it was an unforgivable choice.

    (Forgive me, that was me dancing on my soapbox)

    To respectifully disagree with you, I don’t think I’d list “Give it Away” as the best performance of the night, mainly because I never really cared for the song to begin with. But to each his own.

    Also, I would have really liked to have seen Jimmy Buffett there and a performance of “I Can Still Make Cheyenne”.


    (Had I known this review was here, I’d have responded earlier.)

  14. What song did Kenney Chesney sing for the Artist of the Decade show?

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    ACM’s “Artist of the Decade”: George Strait Review (Aired 05.27.09) | iCF Music

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