My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Randy Travis – ‘Always and Forever’

Striking while the iron was hot, Warner Brothers released Randy Travis’ second album just 10 months after Storms of Life hit stores. Four singles found their way to #1 while the album itself spent an incredible 43 weeks at the top of the Country Albums chart. Always and Forever would go on to sell more than 5 million copies, making it Travis’ most successful studio album. Kyle Lehning’s crisp traditional production is again the perfect showcase for Travis’ crooning baritone, but the song selection isn’t as top-notch this time out, probably due to the hurried release.

Leading off the album was the perennial wedding song and radio recurrent “Forever and Ever Amen”. The Don Schlitz and Paul Overstreet tune features a talking steel guitar and infectious melody, plus some downright charming lyrics – “as long as old men sit and talk about the weather, as long as old women sit and talk about old men” – that all conspire to make it a lasting favorite. Likewise charming is the third single, the plucky “Too Gone Too Long”. It also benefits from some crack guitar picking, and its matter-of-fact message to a departed lover to stay gone.

“I Told You So”, the album’s final single, is my favorite Randy Travis hit. As the singer starts cold with a list of “suppose I’s” in the acoustic first verse, he ponders the response to his hypothetical questions in the soaring chorus. The cry of the steel guitar says he’s right in his assumptions of what she’ll say to him. After riding this self-penned hit to #1 in early 1988, Travis would make his last appearance to date in the country top 10 as a guest vocalist on Carrie Underwood’s cover of the song in 2009.

Sandwiched in between those three winning singles was the plodding and sloppy title track, also titled as “I Won’t Need You Anymore”. Here, the narrator is telling the woman he loves all the hell-freezes-over scenarios when he won’t love her anymore. The mournful sound of the fiddles and steel here belies its romantic message, and it all seems like a waste of radio promotion in my opinion. Promotion that should have went to the excellent Kent Robbins/Susan Longacre tune “The Truth Is Lying Next To You”, with a smooth easy melody and more substantial, if simple, lyrics that speak of proving one’s love by your actions, rather than pretty words. In this particular situation, this guy is out to prove all the fencepost gossips, who say he’ll return to his wild ways, wrong.

Like the singles, the album tracks here are hit and miss, but hit more often than not. Dennis Linde’s blithe take on a woman’s rebuffs after a one-night stand, “What’ll You Do About Me” make for a grin-inducing toe-tapper, while “Good Intentions”, co-written by Travis with Marvin Coe and Merle Haggard features very Haggard-esque overtones in both melody and lyrics. Themes of mama, regret, and looking back with clearer vision are prominent as a man looks back on his mistakes, set to another smooth country melody, and peppered with some great one-liners.

Because Randy Travis’ star was burning bright when it was released, and due to the staying power of the first and last singles, Always and Forever passed its predecessor in terms of commercial success, but doesn’t match it in terms of artistry. Still despite a couple of missteps, this is a very strong album overall, and certainly proved Randy Travis to be immune to the crippling sophomore jinx.

Grade: B+

Buy it at amazon.

7 responses to “Album Review: Randy Travis – ‘Always and Forever’

  1. Razor X June 6, 2011 at 11:32 am

    I think I like this one a little better than you do. I agree that it’s not as good as his debut, but I’d still probably rate it as an “A” effort. I like the title track; I don’t find it plodding or sloppy; I’d save that description for the album cut “My House”. I agree that “The Truth Is Lyin’ Next To You” would have made a good single. So would “Anything.”

  2. Occasional Hope June 6, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    This is the first album I remember waiting for it to come out, and it’s still one I’m very fond of.

  3. Michael A. June 6, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    “What’ll You Do About Me” was later released as a single by Doug Supernaw… around the time of the O.J. Simpson trial. Some interpreted it as making a joke of domestic violence and it stalled outside the Top 10. It’s also been recorded by Steve Earle, John Schneider and the Forester Sisters.

    • J.R. Journey June 6, 2011 at 3:33 pm

      I knew about the Doug Supernaw and Steve Earle singles, but not that John Schneider (never cared for his music) or the Forester Sisters recorded it. “What’ll You Do About Me” is one of my favorites here, and aside from the line about being ‘on the porch with a 2×2’, I don’t hear anything joking about domestic violence. Besides, the lyrics imply that the board is for hitting a potential new boyfriend, not the lady.

      • luckyoldsun June 6, 2011 at 5:49 pm

        Every line of the song is about how the singer is not goint to allow the woman to dump him and how he’ll never leave her alone. If you take it literally, the guy’s a stalker.

        Doug Supernaw was a great underrated singer, but every single he put out caused some controversy or other by people who took the lyrics literally.

  4. pwdennis June 6, 2011 at 8:34 pm

    Not nearly as good as STORMS OF LIFE but still an A-

  5. Michelle (Aussie Girl) December 8, 2014 at 11:50 pm

    This is one of my all time favourite Randy Travis albums I would give it an ‘A’ too.

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