Review : Randy Travis - Anniversary Celebration
PopmattersRandy Travis’ catalog of songs is still in many ways an American treasure trove. His ‘80s albums are especially strong, his easygoing charm putting a kind face on emotional tales of epic heartbreak and pain. This Anniversary Celebration marks the 25th year of Travis’ career. It’s a way of giving testimony to the enduring power of his songs, but as it stands, it mostly testifies to the idea of Travis as a legend, by putting him side by side with today’s stars. Each song, except one, is a duet, with a star of some kind. That includes well-established country stars (Brad Paisley, Kenny Chesney, Alan Jackson) and newer ones (Josh Turner, Carrie Underwood, Zac Brown Band); legends (John Anderson, Willie Nelson, George Jones), country-ish non-country singers (Don Henley, Shelby Lynne) and “Why are they here?” others (Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth, Christian singer Eamonn McCrystal).
In each case, the formula is to take a Travis song—some new, some old—and get Travis and the guest to sing it together. The pairings sometimes seem purposeful. Brad Paisley is on the song with the most prominent guitar lick (“Everything and All”). John Anderson fits naturally on “Diggin’ Up Bones”. Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson are on the song about someone who’s about to hit the bottom, Kristofferson sounding like he’s about to croak as he sings, “My life is in your hands / They say no one can fix broken like you can.” Nelson also seems to be singing craggier on purpose. “Didn’t We Shine” hauls out an assortment of past legends for a nostalgic look back—a parade of has-beens, partly, singing a turgid, treacly song, though Ray Price still sounds awfully good. Occasionally the match-up seems too purposeful; of course it’s Jamey Johnson who’s singing about “A Few Ole Country Boys”. Other times, the logic behind the pairing is unclear, even stupefying....full text
BlogcriticsIf you are a fan of country music and/or Randy Travis, then you have GOT to check out Randy Travis' new album, Anniversary Celebration, that celebrates his 25-year career.
It was released on June 7 and features some great artists that sing along with Randy Travis on the tracks! The artists include: Zac Brown Band, Kristin Chenoweth, Kenny Chesney, Don Henley, Alan Jackson, Jamey Johnson, George Jones, Kris Kristofferson, Tim McGraw, Willie Nelson, Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood! These are so many of my favorites!
As a huge fan of country music, I loved this album and the new songs he added in addition to the re-makes of many of my favorites from Randy Travis! My three favorite tracks were "Forever and Ever, Amen," "Can't Hurt a Man," and "Is It Still Over?"
"Forever and Ever, Amen" is my favorite remake from the album because it features the Zac Brown Band and they put a little rock twang into the song and sped up the tempo a little bit. However, it still has the same great lyrics I love and their voices sound so great together....full text
MykindofcountryMarking the quarter of a century since the release of Randy’s landmark debut album, Storms Of Life, in June 1986, his latest release harks back to his last duets album, 1990’s Heroes And Friends, in many ways. The packaging, like its predecessor, includes pictures from the recording sessions, plus some older pictures from the early days of his career. Randy’s own vocals have noticeably deteriorated from his peak, but he sounds thoroughly invested in the songs here, and his voice still has immense character. The songs include a mixture of Travis classics and new or newish material. Kyle Lehning takes his accustomed place as producer (and, incidentally, pays tribute in the liner notes to Randy’s manager and ex-wife for her contribution to his career as a whole and this particular project).
It opens with a rather underwhelming collaboration with Brad Paisley on the rather boring and tuneless (and too loud) ‘Everything And All’, about seizing the moment, with Paisley also playing electric guitar. Troy Jones’s song has a 2006 copyright date, and frankly I can see why no one picked it up. The tune also sounds distinctly similar to ‘Everything’s A Thing’, an obscure Joe Nichols album cut. For some reason the album also closes with a solo version, which the song really doesn’t warrant. Fortunately matters improve from there on.
The best song from Heroes & Friends, ‘A Few Ole Country Boys’, gets a reprise, and is also one of my favorite tracks this time around. Randy takes the part George Jones sang on the original, and Jamey Johnson plays the young pretender inspired by him, very effectively. Jamey is no Travis, vocally, but he is an excellent emotional interpreter, and this version feels very genuine, if not quite in the class of the shiver-inducingly good original. There is a slight rewrite to suit the new casting (“We heard you were a fast train coming out of Caroline” becomes “Comin’ down I-65”). Larry Franklin’s lovely fiddle and Paul Franklin’s steel add to the traditional feel.
Even better is a gorgeous version of ‘Promises’ with Shelby Lynne, a great singer who has too rarely found equally great material, and has for the most part moved out of country music. Here she is emotional but restrained on one of Randy’s bleakest songs, while Randy’s voice, grainier than in his youth, sounds wearied by the string of broken promises which has led only to mutual heartbreak. The song works unexpectedly well as a duet, with the pair united in their self-imposed misery, and combined with a delicate string arrangement, this sets it apart from the stripped down original and creates it anew. I would love to hear Shelby on a full album’s worth of solo material like this.
The velvety bass-voiced Josh Turner gets the best of the new songs, the cheery Tim Menzies/Roger Springer song ‘T.I.M.E.’. This is a buddyish uptempo reminder to keep a marriage healthy by remembering that “women spell love, T.I.M.E.” The pair sound very good together on an enjoyable song, and this would be good to see recreated live. John Anderson is also great as the guest on ‘Diggin’ Up Bones’, complete with a newish verse omitted from the original (songwriter Paul Overstreet has previously recorded this version).
Zac Brown is very warm and likeable on a breezy version of Randy’s monster hit ‘Forever And Ever Amen’, and the rest of the Zac Brown Band adds pleasant backing vocals. Randy has recorded with Kenny Chesney before (‘Baptism’, on Kenny’s Everywhere We Go); this time, they try out Randy’s hit ‘He Walked On Water’, which is quite nicely done.
Randy is reunited with old tour partner Alan Jackson on a medley of a brace of songs they wrote together in the early 90s: ‘Better Class Of Losers’ and ‘She’s Got The Rhythm (And I Got The Blues)’. Alan seems to be singing in an unaccustomedly low key, and is almost unrecognizable at the start of the first song, but the pair seems to be having fun in the studio....full text
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