* "ALWAYS & FOREVER." Randy Travis. Warner Bros. Forget about comparing this "new traditionalist" to the country greats his style pays homage to--he can't even compare to many of his contemporaries who have already copied and/or updated the form. Though the stylistic breadth (country swing to mournful ballads, only a few written by Travis) and nimble playing surpass those of Travis' 1986 hit debut "Storms of Life," this album hardly constitutes any kind of milestone in the return to favor of country's foundations. The acoustic jazz feel of "Too Gone Too Long" has already been done better by the likes of Leon Redbone and Dan Hicks, and the rest of the album's light honky-tonk material can't measure up to the work of Emmylou Harris, Ricky Skaggs or T Bone Burnett. And Travis' pleasant, limited voice doesn't have the lived-in quality needed to carry off the themes of love and loss.
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