George Strait

If You Ain't Lovin', You Ain't Livin'

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George Strait revived the classic Faron Young anthem "If You Ain't Lovin' (You Ain't Livin')" for his eighth album, 1988's If You Ain't Lovin' (You Ain't Livin'). By this time, it was no great surprise to have Strait draw directly from classic country and while there are no great left turns here, it does pack one surprise: the album isn't quite as rip-roaring as its hell-raising title would suggest. Instead of being packed with barroom ravers, this is a pretty laid-back affair, which is part of its appeal. Again, a few of the singles are a bit glossier than the rest -- "Baby Blue," "Famous Last Words of a Fool," both chart toppers, both very good -- but the rest of the material has an appealingly lazy vibe, from the jazzy textures of "Don't Mind If I Do" and "Is It That Time Again," to the hazy, cheerfully resigned closer "Back to Bein' Me." Even the faster tunes here -- and there are really only two, the galloping 2-step "Let's Get Down to It" and the happy Bakersfield shuffle of "Bigger Man Than Me," both echoing classic Haggard moments -- aren't as energetic as companion pieces from earlier Strait albums, and while some may miss that, this slight change of pace makes it a neat little gem within a wonderfully consistent catalog.

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