Tuesday, July 5, 2011

CD Album Review- Randy Travis- 25th Anniversary Celebration

The Review:
For a former kid that cut his teeth on 1980’s country music sitting in the back of his mom’s baby blue Lincoln Continental, the 25th Anniversary Celebration album from Randy Travis is a major guilty pleasure. Back in the day, he captured this particular audience member with a deep, rich honky-tonk voice and some stunning songs.

It is somewhat fitting that his 25th anniversary in country music is marked with an array of distinguished singers joining Travis to make this album. The line-up of guests includes such artists as Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, Alan Jackson and Tim McGraw, Don Henley, Carrie Underwood, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson. While Travis’ signature voice has frayed around the edges- it’s more nasally and not nearly as crisp as you’ll remember- it is a welcome walk down memory lane nonetheless.

Those artists that have distinctive and deep tones to match Travis do the best as duet partners. Aritsts like Zac Brown, Paisley, Shelby Lynne, Kristin Chenoweth and Eamonn McCrystal get swallowed up vocally by Travis. Travis, set against some stronger and more distinctive vocalists like John Anderson, Jamey Johnson, Josh Turner and even Carrie Underwood make better suet foils for certain.

There are some great new songs on this album that deserve mention. The Randy Travis and Don Henley duet- which is more Henley doing harmony than a true duet- named “More Life” is a classic Travis song with a strong protagonist lying in the hospital wishing he had spent more time with the important things in life. James Otto effectively transfers his funky brand of country soul over to Travis on “Too Much.”  The closer, added as a bonus track, is a who’s who of the Grand Ole Opry offering. “Didn’t We Shine” brings Travis together with George Jones, Gene Watson, Connie Smith, Lonnie Morgan and Ray Price, who set about singing about how they were once on top of the world. These last guest stars sing with varying degrees of quality in their waning years, but the message is appropriate as a closer to the album.

Although it contains one of the weakest album covers of recent memory, this album makes a decent case for the dying art of liner notes. Included are some great photographs of Travis recording with many of this album’s duet partners and in nearly every photo, mutual admiration is on display.

At the end of the day, this album makes an appropriate auditory case for Travis’ induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Travis has recorded more than a dozen important studio albums and single-handedly started the neo-traditionalist movement in the 80’s. He charted more than thirty singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts, of which sixteen have reached Number One. Hopefully, an induction in the next decade will be forthcoming.

Sounds Like:
An older Josh Turner

Stand Out Tracks
More Life
Road To Surrender
Didn’t We Shine
Too Much
A Few Ole Country Boys

The Verdict:
Four stars out of five

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