Randy Travis

A Man Ain't Made of Stone

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Randy Travis has always been a traditionalist, which was fine in the late '80s, when he brought straight-up, hardcore country back into the charts, but a decade later, he was out of step with the charts. After spending his career at Warner, he switched to DreamWorks, adopting a new production team (James Stroud and Byron Gallimore) along the way. Ironically, You and You Alone, his 1998 debut for the label, wasn't up to the standard of Full Circle, his last for Warner, and A Man Ain't Made of Stone, his second effort for DreamWorks, isn't either. Much like its predecessor, A Man is a sturdy, solid affair that takes a couple of chances that don't quite work, while offering several good, no-frills traditionalist numbers. All those are packed toward the front end of the album, and by the sixth song, "No Reason to Change," the record feels like a modest latter-day masterstroke. Things go a little haywire on the second half, beginning with "Where Can I Surrender," a turgid ballad with a gospel choir supporting him. From that point on, Travis isn't on secure ground, as even promising numbers are undone by weird quirks: the enjoyable rocker "I'll Be Right Here Loving You" is undone by a chanted litany of modern conveniences/hassles in the verse, "Once You've Heard the Truth" takes a weirdly anthemic turn in the chorus. Travis retains his dignity throughout it all, and the record is redeemed by the nice closer "Thirteen Mile Goodbye," but by that point, A Man Ain't Made of Stone has revealed itself as nothing new, simply a solid Randy Travis record. Much of it sounds fine, but it doesn't have the character of his earlier records, which proves that it's possible to stay traditionalist and still be memorable.

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