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This Is Me

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Album Review

This Is Me, his first album in three years — after a pair of greatest-hits albums and a vanity project — shows that while Randy Travis may have been takin' care of other business, his talent hadn't gone anywhere. He kicks things off with a bang on "Honky Tonk Side of Town," which exploits all of Travis' strengths in one song, from its shuffling swinging honky tonk blues melody to his shifting and rolling vocal inflections to the burning guitars, singing fiddles, and Pig Robbins' unmistakable piano tinkling. Before a feminist listener can catch her breath, Travis jumps back in with another uptempo bluesy number that will have her laughing at "Before You Kill Us All." There are fine midtempo country ballads here too, including Trey Bruce's brilliant "Whisper My Name," among the greatest songs Travis has ever recorded. The backing vocals by Suzy Ragsdale, Darrell Scott, and Verlon Thompson set the tune apart and accent what a grateful love song this is. There are few of these in country music, and of the ones that do exist too many are overly sentimental. This one rings like the stone truth. Larry Gatlin's "Runaway Train" is given proper choogling treatment here, with acoustic guitars ushering in Travis' vocal before the band underlines it all with sheer momentum and gives the title and lyric ass-kicking honky tonk credence. Gatlin's gift for metaphor is nearly singular, and Travis exploits it to the fullest here. On the Kieran Kane-penned "Gonna Walk That Line," Travis runs through his best George Jones bass singing, and Mark O'Connor's fiddle lifts a modern Ernest Tubb-styled barroom tune to a sophisticated, swinging elegance. The set closes with "Oscar the Angel," the only overly sentimental song on the album and its weakest link. The message of the tune is fine, but it's pure corn. At least it's the last track. This Is Me is a better effort from Travis than anybody had any right to expect, and proves he is still a force to reckon with.


Born: May 4, 1959 in Marshville, NC

Genre: Country

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Like the Beatles in rock, Randy Travis marks a generational shift in country music. When his Storms of Life came out in 1986, country music was still wallowing in the post-urban cowboy recession, chasing elusive crossover dreams. Travis brought the music back to its basics, sounding like nothing so much as a perfect blend of George Jones and Merle Haggard. He became the dominant male voice in country until the rise of "hat acts" like Garth Brooks and Clint Black, releasing seven consecutive number...
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