After being deemed to be yesterday’s news by country radio, Randy Travis decided to follow his heart into Gospel music and was rewarded not only with some of the most solid albums of his career but Travis also saw the song “Three Wooden Crosses” come off of one of those Gospel albums and climb all the way to the top of the charts. Five years after that hit and eight years since his last secular album, Randy Travis has returned with “Around The Bend.”
The title track leads off the record and, as usual for something bearing Marcus Hummon’s name as a co-writer, an infectious melody backs up Travis as he sings lyrics that discuss being unafraid of what lies ahead in life. There may be Hammond b-3 organs in the background but the fiddle fills and Travis’ vocals keep this pop-leaning song firmly in country music territory. Knowing that his vocals cannot soar as high or dip as low as they used to, Travis has wisely chosen to record songs that keep him well within his mid-tones, even if his voice is more nasal than it used to be. “You Didn’t Have A Good Time” is a true-blue traditional-leaning country song that finds Travis serving as a narrator helping remind a guy that alcohol makes him do stuff he shouldn’t confuse with ‘good times.’
“Every Head Bowed” sounds like it was tailor-made for Craig Morgan. In fact, while Randy Travis sings the hell out of this Brandon Kinney and Brent Baxter co-write, Morgan would do even better. It’s simply a great song with clever lyrics and is a sure-fire radio hit if radio would give it a chance. “Dig Two Graves” is the new single from the record, after the underwhelming “Faith In You” failed to chart, and it’s a sweet love ballad about eternal love but I don’t think radio will be compelled to play it like they would “Every Head Bowed” or the title track. Matt King recorded the fine Leslie Satcher song “From Your Knees” originally and Travis basically sings it the same way King did.
The last two tracks on the record, “Everything That I Own (Has Got A Dent)” and "'Til I'm Dead And Gone" round out the record. The latter track is particularly a strong reminder of the power that traditional country records can have. Even though Randy Travis has resorted to some vocal techniques to help mask the aging of his voice, "Around The Bend" is a welcomed return from one of the greatest artists of the last 30 years.