COMING BACK TO COUNTRY

Randy Travis reveals his pain - and joy - in his first country album in five years.

Minneapolis, October '03
Kathump . . . kathump . . . kathump . . .
The rhythmic sound of the tour bus' tires on the interstate is in perfect harmony with Randy Travis' thoughts. He's barreling from Minneapolis to a concert in Minot, N. D., and he's missing his ailing wife of 13 years. Lib's having a tough time recovering from surgery on a vertebrae disc.
Kathump . . . kathump . . . kathump . . .

Through a side window Randy watches Minnesota's rolling plains and a sea of ponderosa pines roll by in a 70-mile-per-hour blur. And as loneliness washes over him, a song idea comes to him. He picks up a guitar and sings, "If you want someone who'll always stand by you no matter where or when, I'm your man, honey, I'm your man."

Set against the kathump-kathump soundtrack, Randy finishes the tribute to Lib, "I'm Your Man," somewhere down the concrete ribbon of interstate.

Las Vegas, December '04
Randy is drinking bottled water as he relaxes in his two-story suite at the Golden Nugget. Ready to wrap up touring for the year, he's talking about his new country CD, Passing Through-containing the very personal "I'm Your Man." Now fully recovered, Lib (Elizabeth Travis, who's also Randy's manager) breezes into the suite from a shopping spree. As Randy continues, he explains that Lib had a hand in naming the record. The title came from a line in one of the album's songs.

" 'Cause I'm just passing through is in 'A Place to Hang My Hat,' " explains Randy. "Lib came up with the idea of calling the album Passing Through. And, at the same time, she envisioned the CD cover-me by the tire of my tour bus."

Randy confesses that it feels good to release a country album after back-to-back successes with the inspirational/gospel albums Inspirational Journey, Rise and Shine and Worship & Faith. He'd released Inspirational Journey after hitting a slump in his country career. When the album was a success, he put out Rise and Shine. That CD featured "Three Wooden Crosses"-which went on to be a No. 1 smash on both country and Christian charts, and captured the award for CMA Song of the Year.

Back big time at country radio, Randy knew what to do next. "Passing Through feels great to me," declares Randy, "and it's so good to be back with a pure country CD." He admits many of the songs connect with him on a personal level. "It was surprising as I put the album together to find out so many songs related to my life."

In "Four Walls," the album's debut single, the North Carolina native saw a reflection of his own marriage. "This is a wonderful, well-crafted story song about a lifetime together-a grandparents' life. They had everything they needed, like the chorus says: Four walls, three words, two hearts, one love." Randy smiles. "Lib and I have the same kind of relationship."

"My Daddy Never Was" mirrored a darker part of Randy's life-when he was a teenager pumping himself with booze and drugs, racking up arrest after arrest for stealing vehicles, breaking and entering, driving under the influence, evading cops in a 145 mile-an-hour chase and running into a police chief 's car! And it was a time when he and his dad were constantly at war with each other. "The song hits home for me because I lived a lot of the things in it," he reveals. "There's a line about the night I knocked a hole in her front door-and, unfortunately, I've done that myself in a fit of rage when I was totally messed up on alcohol and drugs. And I missed out on a lot of the relationship with my dad because of me acting crazy and because of him acting crazy.

"My relationship with my dad is still tough today," he confides. "You have to find out each day whether he's in a good mood or not-and, believe me, it doesn't take long to find out. Sometimes we don't talk much, sometimes we don't talk at all-and sometimes we joke around. We take it day by day."

And "That Was Us" also captures his rowdy early life. "I'm sure there were people down in Marshville, North Carolina, who hated me for doing the crazy kinds of things that happen in this song-like cuttin' donuts in the field." But perhaps the song nearest and dearest to him is "Angels." "The first time I heard that song, I was hooked," he admits. "The payoff line-just look in your mother's eyes-really grabbed me, 'cause mothers truly are angels.

"I know my mom was an angel."

Santa Fe, N.M., February '05
Kicking back with Lib at his sprawling Santa Fe ranch, Randy is gearing up for his 2005 concert dates, starting in mid-March. No doubt he'll be on an interstate soon, strumming that guitar and writing a new song.
Kathump . . . kathump . . . kathump . . .

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