Bad enough that at 35, randy Travis has become the elder statesman of modern country music. Worse, the foremost young gun booting him aside in today's youth-driven country marketplace, Travis Tritt, shares not only his record label but also his name. But if Randy Travis is as worried about his career as everyone else seems to be, you can't hear it on This Is Me.
One reason is that Travis has returned to Kyle Lehning, the production ace behind his pioneering "new country" sound. Another is that Travis chose top-notch material for This Is Me like the single "Before You Kill Us All," a rowdier, more rocking song than one would expect from the soft-spoken singer, or the title track, a beautiful ballad with one of those great country busted-romance lines: "This is me you're not talking to."
"The Box," about attaining new insights about a departed dad, is also a standout; it's also Travis' sole writing credit in a set that is well balanced in tempos and styles. "That's Where I Draw the Line," meanwhile, has all the earmarks of becoming another Travis signature, à la "On the Other Hand."
As a whole, then, This Is Me solidifies Travis' intermediary position between the great older country males of the fading present George Jones, Vern Gosdin and those who would fill their shoes.... like Travis Tritt. Ironically, while Travis is toying with a rockier edge, Tritt, the brash "new outlaw" of new country, hews closer to country on Ten Feet Tall and Bulletproof, his fourth album. Bulletproof starts with the fiddle-fired title track, a drinking song that pokes fun at Tritt's image: "Well I start to feel like Superman/Then I pick a fight/Only to find that my opponent's/Holding Kryptonite." A monster writer as well as singer, Tritt, who contributed to six of the album's 10 tracks, later rightfully stakes his claim to his own place in the country pantheon with the slow-burning "Outlaws Like Us," which features soul mates Hank Williams Jr. and Waylon Jennings, honors Hank Sr. and Merle Haggard and takes a muffled potshot at Tritt's media-hyped rival Billy Ray Cyrus.
The single "Foolish Pride" is a power ballad that shows that Tritt can be as tender and compassionate as Travis. Indeed, these two singers stand tall because they manifest so mightily country's time-honored traits of character and credibility, otherwise so absent among the music's instant platinum wonders. (RS 696)
(Posted: Dec 1, 1994)
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