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** 1/2 RANDY TRAVIS, "You and You Alone," DreamWorks

April 19, 1998|Randy Lewis

Leaving his recording home of a dozen years at Warner Bros., Travis becomes the flagship artist for DreamWorks' entre into Nashville, sounding both more at ease and more invigorated than any time since his mid-'80s heyday. He stretches his range, spading deep into his woody baritone in "The Hole" and "Horse Called Music," a ballad about a brokenhearted and typically stoic cowpoke.

Still, he rarely inhabits a song fully, often repeating melodic hooks with machine-like precision rather than modulating them with real feeling. Only briefly in "Easy to Love You" does he sound as though he's totally in the moment and the music.

And he's still searching for material to equal his career-making hits "On the Other Hand" and "Forever and Ever, Amen." Travis obviously is reaching for meaning with the likes of "Spirit of a Boy, Wisdom of a Man." The song admirably avoids driving its message home with a nine-pound hammer, a trap the album-closing "Satisfied Mind" falls into.

Even the grand old man of contemporary country is still learning.


Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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