When I rediscovered country music in the late nineteen eighties, after a long, tough drought, I found that I'd missed a few things. Wasn't it just like country music to become good again after I went away? I've written before about the wonders I discovered when I came back -- George Strait, Dwight Yoakam, The Judds; actual country music. It seemed it took some new blood to look around and say, Hey, does anybody remember country? What's with all these remakes of pop hits? Who's this "Sylvia"? What the hell happened to Charley Pride's musical taste? Likely there were some new producers hitting Nashville who actually liked country music and set out to find artists to match their longing for an authentic sound. Lucky for us; me. These producers understood that times had changed -- Chet Atkins wasn't in control anymore, and bless him, Chet was a treasure, but he'd held the reins tight on whatever sound came out of Nashville, and it was watered-down broth; nothing to upset the taste buds of listeners who liked their country with an airy chime of the Anita Kerr Singers and the steel guitar and drums mixed down so quietly they were essentially nonexistent.
The nineteen eighties, however, were a time for boldness. We were feeling pretty damn good about ourselves -- we had a president who'd restored our self-worth; things were looking up, and it was time to stop settling for crap. We wanted to go out and two-step; we wanted to shove the volume on our car radios to nine, roll down the windows and sing along. We just needed a reason to do that.
This song was a reason. This song killed me and it still does -- one of the best country songs of all time (I included it in my all-time top twenty). Its awesomeness takes my breath away:
As if that song alone wasn't enough, there was this one, also from 1985:
I looked up country music in my handy thesaurus app and one of the suggestions was Randy Travis. Okay, not really, but it should be.
There are certain things, outside our family, that we cherish; things that bring us comfort. Things that make us feel warm, cozy, secure. For me obviously it's music. I like a lot of music, but I treasure only a few specific voices -- John Lennon's, Roy Orbison's, Randy Travis's.
Here is more:
I have a couple of lesser-known favorites by Randy, and since this is my blog, I get to share them (sorry; all the official videos of this song are unembeddable, so this is the best I could find):
This one doesn't even have a live performance that I could find, but it's so good:
Everybody knows what's happened to Randy in the last few years -- his troubles, his stroke. Life is a series of troubles with some good times in between. When I watched him in the Hall of Fame video, my heart ached.
My parents dragged me to a Randy Travis concert when I was still clinging to the vestiges of Phil Collins and Prince and Robert Palmer; before I'd allowed myself to believe that country music would ever, ever come back. I didn't know who this guy was. I sort of knew, but I wasn't succumbing to that trickery; no. Country music had sucked me in once before and then it had tossed me aside like garbage. So as I sat in the upper reaches of the auditorium, I crossed my arms and tossed my head and tsk-tsked over the display on stage below me. But after a while I started to squirm with embarrassment in my seat, because this guy was good.
And boy, was he good.