There was a time when a new Randy Travis album was cause for celebration in country music circles, with radio programmers tripping over themselves to add Travis' brand of neo-honky-tonk to their late-80s and early-'90s playlists. The basso profundo former juvenile delinquent could render a tear-and-beer-stained ballad better than anybody this side of George Jones, and his strong-jawed good looks could put a knockin' in the knees of honky-tonk angels everywhere. But that was then, when contemporary country meant pedal steel and twin fiddles, and not now, when contemporary sounds like "Sugarbland." After a nearly decade-long hiatus from strum and twang that saw Travis getting his God on, playing gospel, the singer has released Around the Bend, a fine disc that, in 2008, is too country for country radio. Despite debuting on the country album charts at No. 3, the disc has as yet to chart a single in the Top 40, where such lesser acts as Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw rule the roost. But in a way, that's a nice compliment for Travis. When was the last time anybody heard a new George Jones song on KNIX?
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