After spending significant time immersed in the world of gospel music, Randy Travis has released his first album in nine years that includes secular themes. This is not to say, however, that Around the Bend completely abandons Travis’ spiritual inclinations. Songs like “Faith In You”, “Dig Two Graves”, “You Didn’t Have A Good Time” and “Every Head Bowed” still touches upon spiritual elements, but the album is not overtly spiritual in feel or content.
Three of the album’s best tracks are “Dig Two Graves”, “Don’t Think Twice” and “’Til I’m Dead And Gone.” “Dig Two Graves” is a sweet ode from a man to his wife. He acknowledges that if she goes first, two graves might as well be dug because it won’t be long before he follows— at least emotionally, if not physically. “Don’t Think Twice” is a cover of a Bob Dylan classic, but is given a decidedly country production that is probably more energetic than any other version thus far. While the romper “’Til I’m Dead And Gone” works well as an album closer, it would have worked even better as an opener. It is the most energetic song on the album and the band lets loose with thrilling guitar solos throughout.
Other noteworthy songs include “From Your Knees”, a Leslie Satcher composition. It uses the “A house is not a home” adage to good affect: ““He waited too late to say he was wrong/His house was still standing, but his home was gone/Brother, you would not believe/What you can see from your knees.” While the title to “Every Head Bowed” may sound like it will be a Praise and Worship song, it’s actually an amusing account of the perceived hardship of parental enforced religious practices from a child’s perspective. “Everything I Own Has A Dent” is another cleverly written song. The man admits that he has a temper, which has created literal dents in all of his possessions, including his heart: “She used to say I’m a man who’s too hard on stuff/And she let me know that also goes for our love.”
While it may make for an intriguing album title for a veteran artist, the Title track of Around The Bend is probably one of the weakest songs on the album. The melody is blandly disjointed. Other songs that suffer from the same blandness include “Faith In You” and “You Didn’t Have A Good Time.” Fortunately, those three songs are the only songs that are firmly in the lifeless category on this otherwise engaging album.
This seventeenth studio album from Randy Travis may not be his strongest effort, but it is a solid record that easily matches the caliber of his other albums. He still sounds vibrant and continues to have a good ear for quality songs.