Deeper than the Holler

We’re lucky to be living in the exact era when we can hear, live, the greatest male voice that country music has ever produced. I’m referring, of course, to Randy Travis (b. 1959). He’s not the best male country musician who ever lived, for he doesn’t write many of the songs he sings, and he’s at best a creditable guitar player. (If I were to choose better overall country musicians, they’d include Hank Williams, Doc Watson, Johnny Cash, Earl Scruggs, Patsy Cline, Bill Monroe, and the like).

But oh, The Voice! A deep, rich baritone: it’s what bourbon would sound like if it could sing. I don’t know of any male country singer who can match it.

Here’s one of his best songs. “Deeper than the holler” went to #1 on the country charts, but should have been a crossover hit as well. Written by Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz, it’s performed live here with another well-known singer, Josh Turner. (I couldn’t find a good live rendition by Travis alone; you can find hear original recorded version here.)

Travis has had a rough life, largely of his own making. I thought he’d cleaned up, but in the last few years he’s been arrested a few times and has engaged in weird behavior (e.g., walking into a convenience store naked to buy cigarettes).  In this performance he’s already past his vocal prime, but The Voice is still there. And the song is beautiful:


  1. Linda Grilli Calhoun
    Posted May 27, 2014 at 4:54 am | Permalink

    “I don’t know of any male country singer who can match it.”

    Josh Turner.

    In fact, Travis and Turner have performed and recorded together, and it’s all quite good, two bass voices blending harmonies. L

    • kansaskitty
      Posted May 27, 2014 at 5:56 am | Permalink

      I agree Linda! Even though it is a religious song of sorts, Josh Turner and Randy Travis singing “Long Black Train” together is gorgeous. Just because I’m an atheist, doesn’t mean I can’t listen to gospel and religious music now & then and appreciate the beautiful harmonies if not the message! (The devil is drivin’ that long black train!)

  2. gravityfly
    Posted May 27, 2014 at 5:18 am | Permalink

    Gorgeous song.

    Another one of his I love is “Are We In Trouble Now.” Music & lyrics by Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits:

  3. Hempenstein
    Posted May 27, 2014 at 6:00 am | Permalink

    Diggin’ Up Bones is another good one, with a title (at least) particularly apt for this site.

    • Ken Phelps
      Posted May 27, 2014 at 7:43 am | Permalink

      This has always been a favorite for me too. Partly because it always struck me as kind of funny to hear the word “exhuming” in a country song.

  4. Posted May 27, 2014 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    I’m not at all a country music fan, but I do have a personalized autographed picture of Randy Travis. One of his sound guys was a patient of mine and got it for me as a thank you. I have no idea where it is though.

  5. Posted May 27, 2014 at 6:21 am | Permalink

    I always enjoy your music blogs, Jerry! If you’re ever free on Tuesdays noon-1 central, tune into my country radio show which you can hear on-line at Email me ( and I’ll play you something. Randy Travis is on the playlist for today (

    • Posted May 27, 2014 at 6:53 am | Permalink

      I think you mean his “music websites”…or something;)

  6. Hempenstein
    Posted May 27, 2014 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    I don’t know of any male country singer who can match it.

    Don’t forget George Jones.

    • jesse
      Posted May 27, 2014 at 8:48 am | Permalink

      And Marty Robbins

    • krzysztof1
      Posted May 27, 2014 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

      My personal favorite is George Jones as far as the voice and general delivery are concerned. But I’m also partial to Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard.

      In general, I like the music of Texas singer-songwriters: Townes van Zandt, Guy Clark, Ray Wylie Hubbard, etc. They make a good commentary on life.

  7. Pete
    Posted May 27, 2014 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    I agree we’ve been lucky to have so many fine voices in country music (and since Bill Monroe’s mentioned I include all the great bluegrass singers in this broad group).

    For me, if I were asked to pack one male vocalist’s music with me on my way out of a burning house and no one else’s it would have to be John Duffey’s. Having lived in the DC area for quite some time, I was fortunate enough to have enjoyed many Seldom Scene performances before he passed away. He’s greatly missed in the DC area as well as in bluegrass circles even if he’s not especially well known elsewhere. I’d recommend doing an Internet search for Duffey singing lead on a song called The Boatman or for his version of Dylan’s Baby Blue (on a Seldom Scene live recording at the Cellar Door). There are so many more but those are a nice representation.

  8. Kilo Papa
    Posted May 27, 2014 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    Well, here’s my two cents for another great country voice, probably my favorite;

    Ricky Van Shelton.

    “I’ll Leave This World Loving You” is one of his best known and most beautiful songs.

    It’s a shame that he has retired from the music business because there is truly not another voice quite like his in music today.

  9. Posted May 28, 2014 at 4:28 am | Permalink

    I defend until death your right to enjoy country music, as long as you aren’t harming anyone else in the process. But don’t inflict your private insanity on me 😉

    • Posted May 28, 2014 at 4:33 am | Permalink

      Even with the “winky face,” that was a pretty nasty comment. You wanna apologize for calling country music lovers insane?

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