Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Randy Travis

  • Storms of Life [Warner Bros., 1986] B+
  • Always and Forever [Warner Bros., 1987] B
  • Old 8x10 [Warner Bros., 1988] A-
  • No Holdin' Back [Warner Bros., 1989] B+
  • Heroes and Friends [Warner Bros., 1990] Neither
  • High Lonesome [Warner Bros., 1991] Choice Cuts
  • Greatest Hits, Volume One [Warner Bros., 1992] A
  • Greatest Hits, Volume Two [Warner Bros., 1992] A-
  • Wind in the Wire [Warner Bros., 1993] Neither
  • This Is Me [Warner Bros., 1994] *
  • Inspirational Journey [Warner Bros., 2000] **
  • The Randy Travis Anthology: Trail of Memories [Rhino, 2002] A
  • Rise and Shine [Curb/Warner Bros., 2002] Choice Cuts
  • Passing Through [Word/Curb/Warner Bros., 2004] *
  • Around the Bend [Warner Bros., 2008] ***

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Storms of Life [Warner Bros., 1986]
With his rotogravure cover and spare instrumentation, Nashville's hot new thing cultivates an aura of neotraditionalist quality, as is the fashion these days. Fortunately, the quality at least is real. He sounds like an unspoiled John Anderson singing the material of a lucky George Strait. The two hits are the two side-openers are the two best, and neither could have been written by anybody who didn't work nine-to-five thinking up puns and angles. B+

Always and Forever [Warner Bros., 1987]
Nashville's latest sureshot is exactly as strong as his material. How this distinguishes him from Tammy Wynette or Carl Smith I don't get. B

Old 8x10 [Warner Bros., 1988]
One of the two duds counts "at least a million love songs / That people love to sing," so now these are at least a million and eight, and like the man says, they're all a piece even though themes and titles vary. This being country, he means love as in relationship--only "Honky Tonk Moon," is flushed with romance. Sometimes he's steadfast, usually he fucks up, always he sings like the neotrad master he's content to be. A-

No Holdin' Back [Warner Bros., 1989]
Travis doesn't get lucky on this one, which is dragged like most country albums by its quota of ordinary--maybe "Singing the Blues" should be ceded permanently to Guy Mitchell. But after kicking off with a Richard Perry-produced "It's Just a Matter of Time" that apes and aces Brook Benton's original, side two reminds us why Travis is currently the genre's ranking pro--the tunes and turns just keep on coming. B+

Heroes and Friends [Warner Bros., 1990] Neither

High Lonesome [Warner Bros., 1991]
"Better Class of Loser" Choice Cuts

Greatest Hits, Volume One [Warner Bros., 1992]
The consumer fraud does his rep an injustice: put all 22 tracks from his two separately sold best-ofs on one CD, where they belong, and there'd be no doubting who's the preeminent country singer of our era. As laid-back as Lefty or Merle with more voice than either, he reaches down to muse in a bass every bit as conversational as the high baritone he beseeches with, and his hits never force an emotion or waste a word. He's a homebody rather than a honky tonker, and he flirts with genre exercise--Lefty didn't need to explain, "I come from the country," or peddle an antialienation homily like "Heroes and Friends." Nevertheless, his style is so consistent that the jumbled chronology will be inaudible to listeners who didn't date their lives by these songs. Not only will it convince you that the genre is his life, but that it has something to do with yours. A

Greatest Hits, Volume Two [Warner Bros., 1992]
One sign of how seriously Travis took his commercially chancy separate-disc best-of ploy is that he didn't stint with the bait cuts. Rather than bringing the collection down the way they usually do, four of the five previously unreleased songs on the two records are as classic and made-to-order as his style itself. Note, however, that on this less consistent volume the new ones are highlights. And that new title number five is the Travis-penned greeting card that brings the package to a close--and down. A-

Wind in the Wire [Warner Bros., 1993] Neither

This Is Me [Warner Bros., 1994]
give him decent material and let the poor guy be ("Small Y'All," "Gonna Walk That Line") *

Inspirational Journey [Warner Bros., 2000]
See: Striving for Ease. **

The Randy Travis Anthology: Trail of Memories [Rhino, 2002]
See: Striving for Ease. A

Rise and Shine [Curb/Warner Bros., 2002]
"Raise Him Up" Choice Cuts

Passing Through [Word/Curb/Warner Bros., 2004]
Decency is its own reward ("My Daddy Never Was," "That Was Us"). *

Around the Bend [Warner Bros., 2008]
Filling their shoes and standing that tall ("Don't Think Twice, It's All Right," "You Didn't Have a Good Time"). ***

See Also