Randy Travis' 10 Best Songs: Critic's Picks

Randy Travis performs at LP Field during the 2013 CMA Music Festival on June 7, 2013 in Nashville.
Frederick Breedon IV/WireImage

Randy Travis performs at LP Field during the 2013 CMA Music Festival on June 7, 2013 in Nashville. 

In 1986, artists such as Kenny Rogers, Anne Murray, and Alabama were ruling the charts with a more crossover sound on Country Radio. The New York Times ran an article in 1985 proclaiming traditional Country Music dead.

And, then along came Randy Travis.

Granted, there were other performers recording in more of a classic-based sound, but the 1986 album Storms of Life ushered in an era of Country performers known as the "New Traditionalists." Names like Dwight Yoakam and Keith Whitley were among them, but Randy Travis was the lead character in the storyline -- with a song selection and singing style that was a definite throwback to an earlier time.

Throughout the rest of the decade, and through the 1990s, no radio chart was complete without at least one Randy Travis song. His 1987 Always and Forever disc stayed atop the Country Albums chart for a staggering forty-three weeks. As the singer continues to recover from a 2013 stroke that would have killed weaker men, let's take a look back at some of the best moments in the Randy Travis chart history!

Best Songs: Alabama | Alan Jackson | Blake Shelton | Brad Paisley | Carrie Underwood | Chris Stapleton | Conway Twitty | Darius RuckerDierks Bentley | Dixie Chicks | Dolly Parton | Eric Church | Garth Brooks | George Jones | George Strait | Jason Aldean | Johnny Cash | John Denver | Keith Urban | Kenny Chesney | Kenny Rogers | Lady Antebellum | Merle Haggard | Miranda Lambert | Patsy Cline | Rascal Flatts | Reba McEntire | Sam HuntShania Twain | Thomas Rhett | Tim McGraw | Toby Keith | Waylon Jennings | Willie Nelson | Zac Brown Band

10. Randy Travis - "This Is Me"

The title track from his 1994 release on Warner Brothers, this Tom Shapiro / Thom McHugh cut proved that Travis was still capable of getting an emotional delivery of this song that concerned itself with the lack of communication in a relationship.

9. Randy Travis - "Spirit Of A Boy, Wisdom Of A Man" 

To follow your passion -- or what your heart tells you is the right thing to do. That was dilemma that Travis faced in this 1999 hit from the pen of Trey Bruce and Glen Burtnik. The song was originally recorded four years prior by Mark Collie on his Tennessee Plates album. Travis lent a breath of authenticity to the song, sounding like a man who had made a few such choices -- good and bad -- in his life.

8. Randy Travis - "Is It Still Over?"

This breezy hit earned the singer his ninth chart-topper in the spring of 1989. Taken from his million-selling Old 8 X 10 album, you might have heard if before outside of the realm of Country Radio. The song appeared in the 2007 box office hit National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets.

7. Randy Travis - "I Told You So"

One of the songs in Travis' catalog to feature his name as the writer, this song is important to the singer for a multitude of reasons. He recorded it on his Live At The Nashville Palace album -- the club where he served as a house singer and the cook -- in 1983. The song was then cut by Opry star Jeanne Pruett. Travis recorded it himself for 1987’s Always and Forever, and saw the song hit the top. Then, twenty-two years later in 2009, he found himself on the charts again with the song -- this time with Carrie Underwood!

6. Randy Travis - "Hard Rock Bottom Of Your Heart"

This became Randy’s longest running number one when it hit the top of the charts in 1990. It spent a solid month atop the singles chart -- becoming the first song in a dozen years to so. The song also was one of the first hits for Hugh Prestwood as a writer, who also composed Trisha Yearwood's "The Song Remembers When."

5. Randy Travis - "Forever and Ever, Amen" 

As the old Jerry Reed song states, ‘When You’re Hot, You’re Hot.” And, in 1987 there were few songwriter teams any hotter than that of Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz. The two were riding the crest of success with Randy’s "On The Other Hand" from the year before, when Travis tabbed this romantic number as the first single from Always and Forever. The results were even more impressive this time, with a song that became a wedding anthem for the ages.

4. Randy Travis - "Promises"

Chart numbers don't always tell the full story of a song’s impact. In 1989, with nine of his past ten singles all going to the top, Travis took a huge risk -- releasing a stark ballad that featured simply he and a guitar. The song failed to dent the top 10, but ask any Randy Travis fan, and they will tell you this song is a career highlight. And, that includes his fellow artists. In a recent interview with Billboard, Joe Nichols cited this #17 hit as one of his favorite Randy Travis songs.

3. Randy Travis - "On The Other Hand" 

Schlitz and Overstreet were in the middle of a writing session, and nothing was going right. One of them said "On the other hand," to which the response was said "There’s a golden band." However, it almost ended there. The song was pitched around town, and many artists passed. Travis released the song as his first single for Warner Brothers, and it hit -- No. 67. But, this song would have its' day. After the song that stands as number one on this list broke his career wide open in 1986, the label re-released it -- partly because they didn't have enough material for a follow-up album. In July of 1986, this song became the first to top the chart for the singer, becoming a classic in the process.

2. Randy Travis - "Three Wooden Crosses" 

It had been nine years since Travis had scored a number one hit on the Billboard charts, and he had pretty much been recording Gospel / Inspirational music. So, the odds were stacked against this Doug Johnson / Kim Williams composition about a fateful bus ride to Mexico. But, radio slowly began to warm up to the song, and this classic story song hit the top of the charts over Memorial Day weekend of 2003.

1. Randy Travis - "1982"

The Randy Travis song that started it all only made it to No. 6 on the charts. But, that doesn’t matter. This song is at the top of the list because in a time period where crossover sounds were ruling the charts, this throwback to a Lefty Frizzell sound was all the rage in the winter of 1986. The song -- and the artist -- gave fans of a traditional sound hope that more such artists were around the corner. It also led to his debut album, Storms Of Life, which still ranks as the top debut album in Country Music history in the eyes of many critics and fans. To say he started the "New Traditionalist" movement of the late 1980s would be only partly true -- George Strait, Ricky Skaggs, and Reba McEntire were already having hits with a more traditional sound, but this song definitely made Randy Travis the leader of that pack.