Picks and Pans Review: No Holdin' Back

updated 11/06/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/06/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

Randy Travis

Old Randy doesn't seem like the sort of guy who would fool us—but can it really be as easy as he makes it sound to turn out such richly melodic, deeply satisfying country music, as warm and comforting as a favorite chair on a troubled evening?

There are moments on this, his fourth album, when it seems to be just Travis and his pedal-steel player, Doyle Grisham, sitting in a room somewhere meditating on the injustices of the universe in general and romance in particular. In fact, there are plenty of other meditators: among them fiddler Mark O'Connor, keyboardists Pig Robbins and John Jarvis and singer-songwriter Matraca Berg, who adds the harmonies on "Mining for Coal," which she wrote with Ronnie Samoset.

That track is one of the few upbeat tunes on the album. If you've got to brood, though, this is the way to do it. Travis goes back for a couple of standbys. One is "It's Just a Matter of Time," the marvelous Brook Benton-Belford Hendricks-Clyde Otis song that was a 1959 hit for Benton; the other is Melvin Endsley's "Singing the Blues" (one of the few tunes to make the Top 20 in two different versions in the same year—Guy Mitchell and Marty Rob-bins did it in 1956).

Travis also lends a what-else-can-you-expect sense of resignation to such neatly turned new songs as "Card-Carryin' Fool" (Byron Hill-Tim Bays), "Hard Rock Bottom of Your Heart" (Hugh Prestwood) and "Have a Nice Rest of Your Life" (Verlon Thompson-Mark D. Sanders): "I believe that your good nature/Will emerge with someone else/If I can't be beside you/I can be beside myself."

Richard Perry produced "It's Just a Matter of Time" for his recent album recycling old hits with new performers. Kyle Lehning gets the rest of the production credit, and this is an album where there is more than enough credit to go around. (Warner Bros.)

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