When Randy Travis was born on May 4, 1959, in Marshville, North Carolina, I like to believe his first words were (in his infantile baritone): My heart’s on a roll, I’m easy in my soul, There’s no hurry, no worry, things are goin’ my way (“Honky Tonk Moon,” 1988).
Try asking any country fan what his/her favorite Travis tune is. You’ll get as many answers as people you ask. The Country Music Hall of Fame member has more hits than Joltin’ Joe. Grammy Awards, CMA Awards, ACM Awards, Dove Awards—Randy has multiples of them all.
Nonetheless, in honor of Randy’s 62nd birthday, we tasked Outsider‘s Marty Smith, Wes Blankenship, and Jim Casey with breaking down their favorite Randy Travis song.
‘Forever and Ever, Amen’
“Forever And Ever, Amen” is quintessential Randy Travis.
Nearly 35 years after its release, “Forever” is as relevant and impactful right now as it was in 1987. Hell, maybe more so.
In 1987, the world turned in 24 hours. These days it turns in 24 seconds. No matter our stage in life, there’s so much coming at us. There are so many distractions, and we’re all in a hurry. So that timeless message of true love is all the more powerful. I love you for you. I love who you are, not what you are. And you’re beautiful to me, always.
My wife Lainie and I love that message. We will grow together, and we will evolve together, and our appreciation for one another is uninhibited by the clock or the calendar or the mirror. We assume that’s understood. But sometimes it’s nice to actually hear “I love you and I appreciate you.” Know what I mean?
On top of that, for me, as an avid fan of the beautiful lyrics penned by Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz, Travis is a bit like George Strait. He effortlessly takes another man’s words and delivers them with such personal vulnerability that you swear there’s no way he didn’t write those words. This song says so much with so little: But honey I don’t care, I ain’t in love with your hair, and if it all fell out, well I’d love you anyway and As long as old women sit and talk about old men.
These are fabulous, timeless lines and melodic cadence. It doesn’t get much more country than Randy. Happy birthday, legend.
‘Deeper Than the Holler’
Randy Travis takes on all of the lyrical love song clichés and makes ’em country in “Deeper Than the Holler.” Randy turns the written words—again courtesy of songwriters Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz—into a genuine classic.
These aren’t lines from a Valentine’s candy heart. These are from an actual, beating, full-of-love hillbilly heart. If my wife hadn’t already heard these lines a time or two in her life, I’d be tempted to unironically borrow a few.
My daughter will inevitably hear them as well, and I’ll mean every single one. Deep, strong, high, pure, honest, and long. That covers every measurable and immeasurable attribute anyone could hope their love for another person would be.
The holler, the river, the pine, the snowflake, the robin, and the whippoorwill. If you grew up in the south as Randy did, those visuals just a hit a little harder. And hell, even if you didn’t, you at least know what a river and/or a snowflake is.
I’ve enjoyed seeing so many people celebrate Travis’ work through—of all places—their Tik Tok videos. No matter how good the performance may be, it’s his authentic reaction to each one that steals the show.
‘Diggin’ Up Bones’
Heartbreak never sounded so good. Randy took a pick and shovel to everyone’s heart when he started exhuming things better left alone.
Yep, Randy was diggin’ up bones, resurrecting memories of love that’s dead and gone. It all started with that picture he dug out of his old dresser drawer. Of course, this was 1986, so folks still had photos. Today, it’s a covert swipe through your ex’s Instagram from a burner account. But “Diggin’ up Bones” was old-school heartbreak, and it helped usher in the neotraditionalist movement of the late 1980s. Testify!
We should have called this article the Paul Overstreet Tribute because the songwriting legend scored another classic when he co-penned “Diggin’ Up Bones” with Al Gore (not the former VP) and Nat Stuckey. The tune, which was featured on Randy’s 1986 debut album, Storms of Life, peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart to give Randy his second chart-topper (Overstreet also co-penned Randy’s first No. 1 hit, “On the Other Hand”).
Of course, once again, Overstreet needed the vocal colors and textures of Randy’s beautiful baritone to keep the royalty checks pouring in. And pour in they did. Storms of Life sold 1 million copies in its first year (3 million to date).
Now, dig this.