March 08, 1999 12:00 PM

George Strait (MCA Nashville)

What Strait’s 24th album lacks in pleasant surprises, it more than makes up for in reliability. Strait is an always warm, always graceful singer who never seems to try too hard, and he has developed a shrewd ear for tasteful country melodies that suit his style. This album includes a characteristically varied mix, from the swingy “Write This Down” to a mournful divorce ballad, “4 Minus 3 Equals Zero.” While Strait gets his best instrumental support from pianist Steve Nathan and steel guitarist Paul Franklin, his vocal backing is undistinguished. Some day it would be nice to hear a duet between Strait and, say, Faith Hill or Suzy Bogguss.

Bottom Line: Another pleaser from the new Eddy Arnold

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