Randy Travis — “Everything and All”
Back in the early and mid-1980s, country music was a vast wasteland of pop-country schmalz and synthesizers, completely devoid of any traditional sounds. And then Randy Travis rode into Nashville, drove the pop pretenders out of country music, single-handedly kicked off the New Traditionalist movement and launched country music into a Renaissance era.
Okay, so maybe it didn’t quite happen that way. Still, at a time when George Jones was singing “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes,” Travis looked like the answer. The string of singles that he released over the first decade of his career alone, including “Forever and Ever Amen” and “1982,” make him a lock for the Country Music Hall of Fame. While an acting career and a string of gospel albums have kept his attention elsewhere in recent years, Travis has just released a 25th anniversary career retrospective album loaded with duets, plus this solo number.
Travis’ songs have always had a distinctive sound, but “Everything and All” is so bland that nobody could have made it stand out. It’s filled with generic, positive self-help lines about kicking back, taking it slow and dancing (and dancing and dancing) while the world keeps spinning ’round (and ’round and ’round). Add in some token Christianity references and the bit where Travis speeds through the lines “All like that and everything and all and everything and all like that,” it sounds like there are parts of two or three songs haphazardly stuck together.
Twenty-five years into his career, Travis is still a fine singer, but “Everything and All” doesn’t suit him in the slightest. Perhaps the problem with lies in the Anniversary Celebration album itself. This song is the opening track, but it’s performed as a duet with Brad Paisley. That pairing actually makes sense, because this is exactly the kind of fluffy, up-tempo ditty with a flashy guitar solo that Paisley does well. While Paisley can get away with a throw-away tune like “Online” or “Ticks,” it doesn’t work as well when Travis does it. Rather than taking a song and making it his own, Travis ends up sounding like a special guest on his own single.
It’s unfair to ask Travis to stick to the same style that he used 30 years ago, and it’s unrealistic to expect him to lead the Neo-neotraditionalist movement. His last radio hit was almost a decade ago, and the current generation mostly knows him as a Carrie Underwood duet partner, so it makes sense to play it safe. It’s just that hearing Travis singing “Everything and All” is like hearing Reba McEntire doing Beyonce covers or George Strait auto-tuning his way through “Stars on the Water.” It leaves the older fans disappointed and the younger ones wondering what the fuss is about.
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