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Somewhere between stealing cars, taking too many drugs, guzzling dangerous amounts of booze and trying to outrun the law, Randy Travis found God and the power of inspirational music.

"I had nothing in my early life that dealt with learning about church," confesses Randy. "I didn't hear the word of God preached or talked about. That wasn't part of where I came from.

"But I remember," he continues, "hearing hymns as a little boy when I visited a church with some neighbors."

As a teenager sitting in North Carolina jail cells, Randy was a long way from hearing hymns.

"I was on a fast track to dying young," he admits, "either from getting shot, a car wreck or total abuse from alcohol and drugs.

"I had several felonies to deal with, and so many arrests. You could fill a table with the paperwork that went with those arrests. I was nailed for stealing vehicles, breaking and entering, driving under the influence, evading arrest. When I was 15 -- and drunk -- I had five police cars chasing me and, going 145 miles an hour, I was outrunning them! Then I wrecked on a curve -- and the first policeman to reach me was not a happy man. He grabbed me by the throat and pulled me out of the car through the driver's side window!

"I did those kind of insane things throughout my childhood," he adds. But after Randy moved to Nashville in 1981 and got his singing career off the ground, his heart started to change. "In my early to mid-20s, I started reading the Bible and making changes within myself," he says. "I was baptized in Ashland City near Nashville."

As his country stardom blossomed, Randy's love of gospel music grew. After a string of 15 country No 1s and 13 more Top 10s, he released an all-gospel CD, Inspirational Journey, in 2000. It garnered critical acclaim, two Dove Awards and a Grammy nomination. But best of all, declares Randy, the album touvched people's lives.

"I was performing songs from the CD in a church," he recalls. "A young man came in to hear me 'cause he like my country stuff. His mom told my wife, Lib, that he was doing what I used to do -- drinking and using drugs.

"There was an altar call that night and that young man said he was saved and became a different person. I've never had anything make me feel quite like I did when I heard his story."

The positive feedback Randy got from Inspirational Journey through hundreds of letters and emails guided him to release a follow-up, Rise And Shine, another superb collection of inspirational tunes. The album has 13 tracks, six co-written by Randy.

The first single, "Three Wooden Crosses," has been well-received at Christian and country radio. "It's a solid story song," notes Randy, "just like 'He Walked On Water' and 'The Box.'

"The first time I heart it I was working out. I'd popped on a CD of demo songs. The first line filled the air -- A farmer and a teacher, a hooker and a preacher -- and I thought someone put the wrong song on this gospel CD. It tells a great story.

"'Keep Your Lure In The Water' came from a fishing trip in Wisconsin with Jeff Perry, pastor of the St. Louis Family Church," explains Randy. "We were fishing for muskie. The guide kept telling Jeff, 'Keep your lure in the water.' Lib had the idea to write a song built around that line."

And "Jerusalem's Cry" got its start right from the Good Book. "In the passages of Revelations," reveals Randy, "we found a verse that led us to the song."

With two inspirational CDs under his (Bible) belt, Randy's now ready to return to his country roots.

"We've got about half the songs we need for a country album," he declares. "And what great songs we've found!"