My Kind of Country

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

Album Review: Randy Travis – ‘Influence Vol 2: The Man I Am’

influence 2The first volume of Randy Travis’s recordings of classic country covers came out last year, not long after his health issues came to a head. I was afraid this second volume would consists of lesser cuts left on the shelf when the first album was released, but if anything I think this instalment is even stronger. His vocals are better on both sets than they had been in years, and Randy delivers a masterclass in country music.

‘Vern Gosdin’s great ‘set Em Up Joe’ only came out in 1988 so could not really be described as a direct influence on Randy, who was at his commercial peak himself at the time. However, it fits perfectly thematically with its tribute to classic country records and their lasting impact as solace for a broken heart. It is also, of course, a wonderful song, and Randy’s version is great, matching the original. It is one of the standouts on a collection of consistently exceptionally high quality.

‘For The Good Times’ is also stunning, with a gently tender reading which is just exquisite. A delicate string arrangement is sweet without being overwhelming.

Haggard was the strongest influence on Vol. 1, and his shadow is strong here too. ‘Are The Good Times Really Over’ is masterfully done, with a thoughtful reading of Hag’s gloomy polemic about changing times. A resigned ‘That’s The Way Love Goes’ is almost as good.

‘Sunday Morning Coming Down’ is also excellent, with a very distinctive interpretation.

Vibrant committed versions of ‘I’m Movin’ On’ and ‘The Only Daddy That’ll Walk The Line’ pick up the tempo nicely. Ernest Tubb’s lesser-known ‘You Nearly Lose Your Mind’ is catchy and enjoyable.

Marty Robbins’s ‘Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me’ and Hank’s ‘Mind Your Own Business’ both have a playful almost jazzy feel; the latter is more successful for me with Randy sounding fully engaged. His own travails with press interest in his life may have fed into this.

Jimmie Rodgers’ ‘California Blues’ is the most bluesy side of Rodgers, and effectively done. ‘There I’ve Said It Again’ is a crooning pop ballad from the early 60s which is an unexpected choice but smoothly performed.

Volume 1 included a new song. ‘Tonight I’m Playing Possum’, recorded as a duet with Joe Nichols. The song makes a reappearance here, solo.

This is an excellent album from one of the greatest living country singers. Playing this through and then taking a look at any recent “country” chart is enough to make one cry with frustration and regret at what we appear to have lost. Perhaps it’s best just to take consolation in the great music we do have access to.

Grade: A+

6 responses to “Album Review: Randy Travis – ‘Influence Vol 2: The Man I Am’

  1. Leeann Ward August 20, 2014 at 10:12 am

    I’m sure this and the first volume were recorded right around the same time or even at the same time, but his voice sounds stronger to me on this volume for some reason. Additionally, I think this volume is stronger than the first. I was pleasantly surprised. I miss Randy Travis.

  2. AndyTheDrifter August 20, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    I haven’t heard this album yet, but given how much I liked the first volume, will definitely be picking it up. Randy is a treasure. Great review and amen to that last paragraph.

  3. Razor X August 20, 2014 at 9:17 pm

    I also think this volume is stronger than the first. I liked the first set, but it was primarily a Haggard tribute album. I was glad to see songs from a wider selection of artists this time around. I really liked “Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me” and “Sunday Morning Comin’ Down”. And while listening to “Are The Good Times Really Over” it struck me how the lyrics are as relevant today as they were 30 years ago.

  4. luckyoldsun August 20, 2014 at 9:29 pm

    I thought the first album suffered a bit from somewhat weird song selection. It Travis wanted to do a Merle Haggard tribute, he should have just called it that. Even the pop and blues standards on that album (“Big Butter and Egg Man” and “Pennies From Heaven”) are songs that in the country realm are associated with Haggard.

    It sounds like the second volume is a bit better, though do we really need a second version of “Playing Possum”? I think if Joe Nichols was kind enough to duet on it with Travis, it’s a bit discourteous or bad form for Travis to release a version without Nichols just a few months later. Let the duet stand!. And I’ll probably cringe when I hear Randy sing “Are the Good Times Really Over” with those pure Merle lines about “the Beatles and Yesterday” and “Nixon lied to us all on TV.”

  5. connie grounds September 11, 2014 at 8:37 pm

    randy travis is the best country singer ever born.

  6. Pingback: Occasional Hope’s top 10 albums of 2014 | My Kind of Country

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