This is one stunning collection. If Randy Travis doesn't have as high a profile now as he did in the mid-'80s, when he was spearheading the New Traditionalist movement, it's not because he hasn't been making first-rate music. In 44 cuts spanning the years 1986 (which saw the release of his first solo album, Storms of Life
) through 1999, Trail of Memories
illustrates the breathtaking consistency and impeccable song selection that has made every Travis album a memorable event, even if country radio begs to differ. Disc 1 contains the critical early tracks -- "Diggin' Up Bones," "On the Other Hand," "Forever and Ever, Amen," "Deeper than a Holler," et al. -- but Disc 2 wears well on the strength of "Better Class of Losers," "Memories of Old Santa Fe," "Look Heart, No Hands," and other gems. Sounding like a clone of Lefty Frizzell
, Travis invests his lyrics with heart and soul -- his smooth, crooning baritone can wrap itself around a tearjerker like no one else's, and his good-natured personality shines through when he get holds of a lighthearted, upbeat lyric. The set is rounded out with several duets Travis cut with the likes of George Jones
, B. B. King
, Tammy Wynette
, and fellow Frizzell acolyte Merle Haggard
, along with single remixes of "It's Just a Matter of Time" and "Hard Rock Bottom of Your Heart" and a long single edit of "Heroes and Friends." Travis probably wouldn't want to be called a national treasure, but he's something special all the same. Take this trail to wherever it leads; it'll do your spirit good.