Toby Keith chose to cover "Unwound" at the taping. Other selections included "Adelida" (Sugarland), "Marina Del Ray" (Tim McGraw), "Run" (Taylor Swift), "It Ain't Cool to Be Crazy About You" (Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton), "You Look So Good in Love" (Jamie Foxx), "All My Ex's Live in Texas" (Jack Ingram), "The Cowboy Rides Away" (Brooks & Dunn), "Blue Clear Sky" (Dierks Bentley), "The Fireman" (Alan Jackson), "Give It Away" (Jamey Johnson and Lee Ann Womack), "Amarillo by Morning" (John Rich) and "Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind" (LeAnn Rimes). Lee Ann Womack also debuted a new song, "Just Stand There and Sing."
After watching the whole show with his family, Strait capped the night by graciously thanking all of his friends for performing.
"I love everybody right now," he said with that signature smile. "I'm sure glad I got a hold of those songs before those guys did."
George closed the night with "Ocean Front Property" and "Write This Down" before everybody came on stage for the big finale, "Troubadour."
"I was really proud that they wanted to give this to me,” Strait says of his latest award. "I don’t know, things just keep happening that blow me away. With the (2006 induction into the Country Music) Hall of Fame and now this, you just go, ‘Man, what’s next?’ This is quite an honor, though. I have to say the last decade probably has been the most rewarding for me.”
With 38 albums that have sold a total of 67.5 million copies, and numerous other awards — encompassing Grammy and Country Music Association statues for his 2008 release "Troubadour” — Strait is a model of consistency and longevity in a genre that has seen many changes during his nearly 30-year career.
“It's funny, isn't it?” Strait says of his endurance as the widely acknowledged “King” of country music. “I don't think about it a whole lot. I just feel really fortunate to still be able to be competitive, so to speak, in the business today. I feel like I'm singing as good as I ever have, and I still enjoy doing the (live) shows; I get pumped up and have a great time onstage, and I've been fortunate enough to find good songs throughout my career. It's just hard to pick one thing and say, 'This is why (this has happened)!”
Among those saluting Strait in the concert, fellow Grammy, ACM and CMA Award winner [Alan] Jackson was pleased to pay tribute to his longtime peer. He sang “The Fireman”... ..[Alan] Jackson calls Strait “one of the few artists I've seen come along who have been able to maintain that level of success, and he did it without having to change. He always looked the same and was a great singer, and I think that's the thing. If you deliver good music and give people a personality they don't get aggravated with, country fans will like you.”
Strait recalls the taping of the concert special as “a really special night. " Like I said then, I'm glad I got hold of those songs first! They all did such a great job. It was fun just to be able to sit and watch from the sidelines as they put their own little twists on songs I'd recorded. I consider them all friends, and it was so nice of them to come and do it, since they're all busy with their own things. My wife and son and I all enjoyed it.”
Both in and out of the business, George Strait long has been deemed country music royalty.
“I hate to talk about myself like that,” the native Texan demurs. “When I started out, I never dreamed I would come this far. I just wanted to have a hit record or two and hopefully, a gold album. Things like Artist of the Decade and the Hall of Fame always were in the back of my mind, but they're such hard goals to achieve. You're just out there trying to do the best you can, then all of a sudden, it happens."
[About “Pure Country”] “I had fun doing it,” he reflects, “especially being my first time to ever try something like that. I was a little concerned that if it went down the tubes, my music career might go with it.”
Now, Strait maintains he'd like to tackle acting again. “I'm kind of getting the itch,” he says. “Before I get too old to do it, I think I'd like to try it one more time.”
In the meantime, the newest Artist of the Decade is active in more expected ways. Strait just recorded another album in Key West, Fla. “It probably won't come out for a while, but I think it turned out really good."