Randy Travis “Influence Vol. 2: The Man I Am” Album Review

Randy Travis

Prime Cuts: Don't Worry About Me, That's the Way Love Goes, Only Daddy That Will Walk the Line

Randy Travis is indeed a cowboy.  And you don't mess around with a man who knows his bronco.  You can always count on him to ricochet back with a roping punch.  Despite being admitted into a hospital in the Dallas area for a life threatening heart-attack that later developed into a stroke on July 7 last year, illness has picked the wrong mate to mess with.  Ever since his medical scare, Travis or at least Warner Brothers Records and his management have released two brand new albums. Both of which find Travis tipping his Stetson to the musical heroes who have had influenced his life and music.  Speaking of Travis' music, his legacy is without peer.  Over his storied career that harkens back to the early 80s, Travis has sold over 25 million records, scored 22 #1 country hits, 6 #1 country albums, 7 Dove Awards, and he even has his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The second installment of tribute to Travis' musical heroes is an improvement relative to the first.  The first volume appeared as if Warner Brothers Records wanted to capitalize on Travis' sickness by rushing out a new release hoping people would pick it up out of sympathy for the star.  As a result, the song choice was very ropey.  The album featured Travis covering at least 8 Merle Haggard, making the album look like it was a Merle Haggard tribute CD.  This time around, the song selection is more satisfying.  Trawling the net a little farther, here you'll find Travis tackling songs from country greats such as Hank Williams Jr., Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Ernest Tubb, Kris Kristofferson, Jimmy Rodgers and of course, Merle,

"Influence Vol. 2," though it is labelled with the moniker "country," it is not the type of country we hear on country radio these days.  Here you won't hear a cacophony of blazing electric guitars and ear-popping drums.  Rather, thanks to Travis' long time producer Kyle Lehning, the backings are sympathetically understated and rustic.  Often you won't even notice the percussion especially when Travis goes all the way traditional with his take of Vern Gosdin's "Set 'Em Up Joe" and Merle Haggard's "Are the Good Times Really Over."  Though there are no surprises, Travis does exhibit an array of vocal range, particularly his ability to hit a low base on Hank Snow's "I'm Moving On."   And when does his take of Johnny Rodriguez's "That's the Way Love Goes," you can't help but feel the first flushes of teenage romance again especially when Travis sings about "throwing horseshoes over my left shoulders" and "searching for that four leaf clover."

In the 90s Holly Dunn did a stunner of a version on Martin Robbins' "Don't Worry About Me." Travis' read, on the other hand, pales in comparison; Travis just doesn't have the vengeful bite Dunn has that so befits this breakup song.  Similarly, Travis sounds like he is on auto-pilot on Earnest Tubb's "Nearly Lose Your Mind."  Maybe Travis was already sick when he recorded this song; he just didn't have the angst to make this song work.  Much better is Travis' take on Waylon's signature hit "Only Daddy That Will Walk the Line;" at least Travis sounds energetic and in accord with the music.  In many ways, this is a safe record.  Travis doesn't try to re-invent these country classics and neither is he in to turn heads with these songs.  Yet, if you like your music really "country," this is satisfying.     



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