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Travis can’t make it “Around the Bend”

Szymon Ryzner | Monday, September 8, 2008

A wise man once said that the perfect country song possesses lyrics concerning “mama, trains, trucks, prison, and getting’ drunk.” “Around the Bend,” Randy Travis’ latest release, does not have that air of perfection, but an ode to KFC is present and readily available.

Country music itself has often been a source of anger and frustration to music lovers. It is quite common within society to proclaim an eclectic taste but deny country a place within that listing. Despite a huge following in the south and Midwest, country has yet to gather as much steam.

Randy Travis, hot off his series of Christian country releases, returns with his 17th studio album in 22 years of work. His first purely non-Christian album since 1999’s “A Man Ain’t Made of Stone,” he has created another album of completely generic country music. The turnaround for creating country albums seems dreadfully short, but that should not be used to diminish the value and quality of the music. The value and quality of the music instead should be the factors that affect the albums themselves.

Randy Travis was the first country music performer to have multi-platinum success. This led to widespread fame, but a decline in his popularity in the 90’s led him to try a different formula. His gospel records were popular, with some singles even breaking into the Billboard charts, but nothing could quite recapture the success he had previously enjoyed.  Married to his longtime collaborator Elizabeth “Lib” Hatcher, Travis is clearly dedicated to his career and hoping to continue to entertain and create. Despite being a country musician, he has also collected a fair amount of acting credits throughout his career.  

Despite going as high as No. 3 on the Country Music Charts, “Around the Bend” provides neither particularly memorable singles nor a solid CD worth of tunes. The two released singles, “Faith In You” and “Dig Two Graves,” also had very limited success, failing to break onto the charts. The album itself is traditional country, and makes for fantastic background music due to its circular nature. Travis seems to have found a niche to fill – diehard fans will love the new album, and country fans will find enough within it to appreciate. It has a repetitive nature, but that is often a weakness in country music. The same instruments and variations on a theme provide limited variety and most enjoyment comes from the plethora of different country singers.

For the majority of fans, this will be an enjoyable performance by Randy Travis filled with enough of the good stuff to satisfy. For the rest of those who happen to hear this album and aren’t already fans, it is probably best used as a coaster or bookend, or a way to impress that country lovin’ friend of yours.

Fortunately for Travis, his career does not show any signs of slowing down, and his fans will no doubt appreciate this latest collection.