My Kind of Country

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

Album Review: Randy Travis – ‘Old 8 x 10’

Following up Always & Forever, which enjoyed at 43 week run at #1 on the Billboard Top Country Ablums chart and sold more than 5 million copies, must have seemed like a daunting task. 1988’s Old 8 x 10 was Randy Travis’ attempt to recreate the magic, and though it is an enjoyable album, it is slightly uneven and just misses the mark of equaling its predecessor’s artistic and commercial success.

Like Always & Forever, Old 8 x 10 was produced by Kyle Lehning and spawned four singles. Three of them reached the #1 spot. First up was the laid-back “Honky Tonk Moon”, written by Dennis O’Rourke, on which Travis sounds relaxed and at ease. Following “Honky Tonk Moon” to the top of the charts was the slightly fluffy “Deeper Than The Holler” by Don Schlitz and Paul Overstreet. Unfortunately, this is one of the team’s weaker compositions, which can’t hold its own against their other classics such as “On The Other Hand” and “Forever and Ever, Amen”. Better is the whimsical “Is It Still Over”, which was the third single and my favorite song on the album. The Ken Bell and Larry Hendley tune became Randy’s seventh consecutive #1 hit, and his ninth #1 overall.

Up to this point, beginning with the re-release of “On The Other Hand”, all of Randy’s singles had reached #1 with the exception of “There’s No Place Like Home”, which peaked at #2. This winning streak was interrupted by “Promises”, which Randy wrote with John Lindley. Featuring only Randy’s voice and a single acoustic guitar, it reached #17 in early 1989. Some saw it as the beginning of the end of Randy’s reign at the top of the charts (wrongly, as it turned out), but in actuality, records like this one have always been a hard sell with radio, and the fact that it was played at all is a testament to the tremendous star power Randy wielded at the time. I found it somewhat dull at the time and was amazed at one critic in particular who referred to it as the best single release of Travis’ career up to that point. It is only in the past few years that I can truly appreciate this understated work of art for the masterpiece that it is. I’m still not sure that I consider it his very best performance, but it’s close and it stands as a textbook example of why quality can’t be assessed by chart performance alone.

Among the album cuts are a few gems, such as “The Blues In Black and White” and the excellent “We Ain’t Out Of Love Yet” which should have been released as a single. But unlike Randy’s first two albums, Old 8 x 10 includes a few missteps, such as “Written In Stone” and the title track, which is particularly weak in comparison to the rest of the album’s material.

Old 8 x 10 sold 2 million units, less than either Storms of Life or Always & Forever. However, in the pre-Garth and pre-Soundscan era, sales of 5 million units were virtually unheard of in country music, so it probably wasn’t realistic to expect Travis to maintain that level of success. The album’s double-platinum success was more than respectable, and it still holds up today as one of the stronger album’s in Randy’s catalog. It appears to be out of print in CD form but it can be purchased at a slight premium from third-party sellers at Amazon, or downloaded from Amazon or iTunes.

Grade: A-

3 responses to “Album Review: Randy Travis – ‘Old 8 x 10’

  1. Occasional Hope June 10, 2011 at 11:53 am

    Depper Than The Holler always felt a bit forced lyrically to me, as though the writers were trying a bit too hard to write a really rural love song.

    Like you, I didn’t really get Promises when it came it, it seemed so very bleak and dirge like, but I’ve grown to appreciate it since.

    • luckyoldsun June 11, 2011 at 12:42 am

      Agree–“Deeper Than The Holler” is somwhat forced, lyrically. But it was written by two old pros–Schlitz and Overstreet–and it works. It’s one of Travis’s best performances–from back in the days when he was a great singer.

  2. pwdennis June 10, 2011 at 8:36 pm

    “Deeper Than The Holler” always struck me as an ersatz county song – I did like the rest of the album

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