Online since August 2002

Unfulfilled promise

From the Autumn 2002 issue.

Trail of Memories: The Randy Travis Anthology
Trail of Memories: The Randy Travis Anthology
By Randy Travis

Rhino Records: 2002

To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.

In a year when pop crooner Ronnie Milsap won best album, Dan Seals' "Bop" was top single and Reba McEntire was entertainer of the year, country's new wave couldn't have crashed down at a better time.

Featuring the likes of Steve Earle, Alison Krauss, Lyle Lovett, Patty Loveless and Dwight Yoakam's major-label debuts, it's pretty much a given that the Class of 1986 spawned arguably the greatest class of country artists of any one year. Heading that class, at least at the time, was a short-order cook with arguably the sweetest baritone this side of George Jones.

Randy Travis' debut single, "On the Other Hand," not only won song of the year in 1986 (note, though, it was written by Don Schlitz and Paul Overstreet, among Nashville's most prestigious songwriters of the day), Travis also won the CMA's Horizon Award for best new artist.

Indeed, Travis led the vanguard of traditional country music. His debut album, "Storms of Life," struck gold — almost unheard of not only for a country artist, but it was his initial release to boot.

Yet try as he might, with all his success, Travis never matched Lovett's Deep-in-the-heart-of-Texas swing or Yoakam's ultra-hip neotraditional attitude. And George Strait had established himself as country's leading honky tonk man several years earlier. Ultimately, Travis was overrun by the likes of Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson in the '90s, but there's no disputing his immense influence on the industry as well as other artists.

Travis' career, which still holds a certain amount of success these days, has been well-summarized in a two-disc, 44-song anthology recently released by Rhino. From "On the Other Hand" through the schmaltzy "It's Just a Matter of Time" to the sweet ballad "Look Heart, No Hands" to the jingoistic "Point of Light," Travis' delivers consistent, comfortable country music.

Solid songs, no doubt, and as good a voice as any, but really, in retrospect, nothing here packs a wallop or reveals anything about Travis' music we didn't already know. This guy was good – possibly great – and while he may have been the valedictorian in 1986, nearly 20 years later he's just another guy with a locker full of really good songs.

Review by Rick Bell. Rick is a writer and editor living in Poway, Calif.

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