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RECORD RACK

RANDY TRAVIS "No Holdin' Back." Warner Bros. ** 1/2: Albums are rated on a scale of one (poor) to five (a classic) stars.

September 24, 1989|ROBERT HILBURN

Travis is such a compelling country singer (rivaled only by John Anderson among post-'77 arrivals) that his voice alone on an album should be enough for a three-star recommendation. Dhe fact that this collection ends up with less suggests something is amiss with the material.

Like Anderson, Travis sings in the dry 'n' drawl tradition of Lefty Frizzell and Merle Haggard. Unfortunately, he too has to depend on other writers for material because he is not a self-contained singer-songwriter like Haggard or Frizzell.

Just as Anderson has had trouble in recent years finding songs that match the sentimentality and irony of country music as well as such early '80s hits as "She Just Started Liking Cheatin' Songs," Travis is having difficulty finding more tunes like "On the Other Hand" and "Forever and Ever, Amen."

There are a few worthy moments this time, including the playfulness of "Card Carryin' Fool" and the romantic innocence of "No Stoppin' Us Now." But too many songs suffer from clumsy or listless imagery ("When Your World Was Turning for Me," "Hard Rock Bottom of Your Heart"). A great voice is only half the equation in country music.

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