George Strait releases new album, will play Las Vegas Arena in 2016

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LAS VEGAS — Country music king George Strait wants to be clear.

His upcoming four shows and likely more at MGM Resorts' new Las Vegas Arena next year aren't some re-emergence from retirement.

The 63-year-old may have hung up his touring boots last year after four decades and his record-setting "Cowboy Rides Away" shows, but he's hardly done singing or performing.

"Some people that I have told that I'd be doing some dates in Vegas in 2016 at the Las Vegas Arena, they go: 'Well, you retired. I thought you retired.' Ooh, I just wanna grab 'em and shake 'em. I never said that," he said Tuesday with a flash of his pearly white cowboy smile.

Strait announced Tuesday that he would perform four upcoming shows at the 20,000-seat arena — April 22-23 and Sept. 9-10 — and release a new album, "Cold Beer Conversation," available on iTunes and at Walmart stores starting Friday.

It's an album with ballads and toe-tappers for those "dudes and dudettes" reminiscing about high school football games, family and life over a cold beer.

His first choice for a cold beer chat? His father, John Byron Strait, who died in 2013 at 91.

It was Strait's wanting to talk with his dad that led him to write "Everything I See" with his son Bubba.

"I wish I would have stuck a phone in his shirt, as ridiculous as that may sound," he said of the death of his father, as he pondered the information cloud and being able to communicate with his dad from the beyond.

The Grammy winner and repeat Country Music Association entertainer of the year said he's always looking for a good swing tune and found one, writing the tongue-in-cheek, "It Takes All Kinds" with lyrics such as, "Some got a boat they like to float/ Some got a story they sugarcoat / some got a clue and then some don't / it takes all kinds." Strait said he traded lyrics in texts with his son and his song-writing buddies.

"Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys were a big influence on me," he said. "At one point, I thought I was going to do a big band record of standard songs like Sinatra-type songs, and that's still a possibility."

The Las Vegas Strip has been many things to many people. But it has increasingly become a hub for country music fans, whether seeing Reba McEntire and Brooks & Dunn at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace or seeing The Judds reunite at upcoming shows at The Venetian.

"George retired from touring at the top of his game," said Gary Bongiovanni with the concert industry tracking firm Pollstar. "He has a very loyal fan base that will be delighted to hear the news they have a chance to see him again."

Strait has been no stranger to Vegas and its many casino venues. "The crowds are great, and they come from all over the place," he said.

When the Las Vegas Arena opens in April, Strait will be among the first to play the new $375 million venue being built by MGM Resorts and AEG.

Tickets will cost $75 to $200 and go on sale Oct. 20.


Associated Press video journalist Kristin Hall contributed to this report from Nashville.

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