This past Thursday night, Randy Travis kicked off a three-night stint in Music City with the Nashville Symphony. In doing so, the veteran performer served notice that he is still one of the greatest voices to ever record here – or anywhere else, for that matter.
Kicking off his initial set with 1994's "Whisper My Name," Travis was in fine vocal form throughout – but only seemed to get better with each passing song. Fans who made the trip to the Schermerhorn Center got a generous sampling of his hits over the years, with some of the highlights being such '80s and '90s fare as "Deeper Than The Holler," "Hard Rock Bottom Of Your Heart," "On The Other Hand," and "Too Gone Too Long." Each song brought a deep appreciation and response from the audience, who seemed to sing along with every word.
Vocally, just like his influences Haggard and Jones, Travis has only gotten better with age. If you need proof of this, go to a show and see how he handles the pure emotion of a song like "He Walked On Water." Before the song, he shared a memory about his growing up years with his grandfather that brought out many chuckles from the crowd. He also turned back the hands of time to 1986 with a performance of "Diggin' Up Bones," including a third verse that he didn't record on Storms Of Life, his debut album (He did record the verse on his 2011 25th Anniversary disc, in duet form with John Anderson).
Though much of the music he performed was culled from the first few years of his career, he didn't ignore some of his later hits. One song that was particularly moving was his 1999 release "Spirit Of A Boy, Wisdom Of A Man." He injected a huge dose of regret and heartache in the cut, which was quite moving. He also featured his 2003 chart topper "Three Wooden Crosses," giving a performance that solidified its' reputation of being one of the format's greatest story songs of all time.
The mixture of Travis's band and the Nashville Symphony (conducted by Albert-George Schram) was very effective, proving the old adage correct about there being two kinds of music -- good and bad. Perhaps the greatest example of that was a stunning version of "It's Just A Matter Of Time," in addition to an emotional take on "I Told You So."
Travis saved two of his biggest for last. He added a bit of a George Jones-touch on "If I Didn't Have You," ending the song with phrasing that only "The Possum" could have delivered. The night came to a too-soon end with his signature song, "Forever And Ever, Amen."
Randy Travis has made the news for a variety of reasons during his career, but Thursday night's show had him hitting all the right notes – for all the right reasons. The singer showed himself to still be one of the greatest voices of his generation, if not all time. It may not be this year, but don't be surprised to see the North Carolina native taking his rightful spot in the Country Music Hall of Fame before much longer. It would be a well-deserved spot.