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: