The drawbacks to this position were made all too clear on his most newsworthy hit of recent years, "Murder on Music Row," a duet with the youngest of his children, Alan Jackson. The song's critique of Nashville's newfangled pop styles was couched in an utterly formulaic hoedown that actually belied the lyric's sentiments, demonstrating why country, like all popular music, needs innovation.
This may explain why Strait took some experimental chances on his 2001 release, The Road Less Traveled. The departures range from the pent-up passion and hushed arrangement on "Run" to the surprising touch of Cher-like vocodor on the loping line dance "Stars on the Water." It's all balanced by sure-shot covers and predictable ballads, of course, but presented live, this half-step might be enough to make a standard sound startling again.
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