Randy Travis has one of the most distinctive voices in country music. Moreover, his unbridled twang is credited for helping to pull country music out of the doldrums of the Urban Cowboy phase that plagued the eighties.
With his unmistakable rich baritone, Randy Travis was able to hook me from the first time I heard his voice sing “Before You Kill Us All” in 1994. Since then, of course, I have been pleased to be able to go back and discover his music that began in 1986 with Storms of Life and continues to this day with his recent release of his July 2008 offering, Around the Bend.
While his deep catalog of music, which consists of 17 studio albums, has made it somewhat difficult to choose just 25 of my favorite Travis songs, I have enjoyed the excuse to immerse myself in his music for the past week in preparation for this list.
“Pray for the Fish”
Rise and Shine (2002)
This tongue and cheek account of a baptism finds a man who must have been quite a scoundrel prior to his redemption: “Then the preacher said/People take a moment or two/There’s something we need to do/Pray for the fish/They won’t know what’s coming/When the sin starts rolling off the likes of him/Lord, be with them they ain’t done nothin’/Please, won’t you just leave them a little bit of room to swim/Pray for the fish.” Randy’s delivery makes this song fun and not judgmental.
“Love Lifted Me” (with Mack Powell from Third Day)
Worship & Faith (2003)
This song starts slow and gives the illusion that it’s going to be another somber rendition of an oft sung song, but it is pleasantly deceiving. After delivering a few slow bars, the song picks up the pace with a rousing rootsy production. The addition of Third Day’s Mack Powell, with his soulful growl, is a welcome one. Travis turns this song that I usually find mundane into something fun and uplifting.
“A Man Ain’t Made of Stone”
A Man Ain’t Made of Stone (1999)
I love Travis’ vulnerable, yet passionate, vocal delivery in this song. This man thought it was important to seem strong and unflappable, but realizes that she needed to see the softer side of him at times. Unfortunately, he reached this conclusion too late. Her leaving unearths his emotions and he abruptly learns that “a man ain’t made of stone/A man ain’t made of steel.”
“An Old Pair Of Shoes”
Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 (1992)
As one might expect, Randy can turn out a good self pitying song with the best of them. Using an old pair of shoes as his metaphor for feeling unimportant, he complains, “There’s a hole in my soul/And I’m really feeling used.”
“Too Gone Too Long”
Always & Forever (1987)
This starts with a cool guitar riff that makes the song instantly identifiable. Travis’ is telling his ex that she’s “been too gone for too long”, which means it’s too late to come crawling back now. My favorite line is the bitter punch of “It’s been so long since you walked out my door/Now you’re just an old song that nobody sings anymore.”