Back in the mid-'80s, he was part of country music's vanguard, his back-to-basics balladry an antidote to the treacly country pop then clogging airwaves. Less than a decade later, Randy Travis is suddenly a conservative—a star who banks on a classy voice, not big-budget videos or flashy stagecraft. With This Is Me, he also emerges as rightful heir to such higher-grade mainstream stars of the '50s and '60s as George Jones and Buck Owens.
Every song here is good, all of them guaranteed to appeal to Travis's strong-hold-the blue-collar, Opry-attending country fans of the South and Midwest who still appreciate a western swing-style shuffle like "Gonna Walk That Line" or stoic weepers like "The Box," the sort of quiet homily on family values that Travis excels at. He may be a former fair-haired boy, but listen to him fight back sans gimmicks—the only way, thank heaven, that Travis knows how. (Warner Bros.)