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Around the Bend | 4 stars out of 5
When 1980s country star Randy Travis mounted a successful comeback in 2002, he did so by singing gospel music to a country beat, a gambit he repeated on several successive albums. Therefore, his solid new album, Around the Bend, is being billed as his first country music album in eight years.
In truth, he doesn't completely abandon spiritual themes; Faith in You, Love Is a Gamble and From Your Knees feature Christian messages, or at least can be translated as such. Even the playful Every Head Bowed spends a good amount of time in church, albeit from the point of view of a young boy whose grumbling stomach has him praying for preacher to adjourn so the family can head out to eat.
But the good news for country fans is that one of modern country's most effective translators of hurting songs once again tackles themes of heartache and loss. The album's most unforgettable tune, You Didn't Have a Good Time, dresses down a man who has lost most everything except the empty bottles piled around his home. Perhaps country radio will embrace this secular triumph just as it did his spiritual ones.
In the album's most surprising moment, this down-home country singer turns Bob Dylan's Don't Think Twice, It's All Right into a jaunty acoustic tune that would've drawn shout-outs amid a Greenwich Village hoedown 40-some years ago.
Michael McCall, Associated Press