NASHVILLE (Billboard) - After devoting himself to gospel on his recent recordings, Randy Travis is back with his first country album in eight years.
"Around the Bend" was released July 15 by Warner Bros., the label he first signed with nearly 25 years ago. The set, which debuts this week at No. 14 on the Billboard 200 and No. 3 on Top Country Albums, heralds the return of one of country music's most acclaimed traditionalists, credited with jump-starting the country format with his 1986 debut, "Storms of Life."
In recent years, Travis found a second and very successful career as a gospel artist, recording four faith-based albums as well as a Christmas collection for Warner Bros.-owned Word Records. In 2003, the track "Three Wooden Crosses" started as a hit in the Christian market, then returned Travis to the top of Hot Country Songs. It also earned him Grammy, Country Music Assn., Academy of Country Music and Dove Awards.
Travis says "Three Wooden Crosses" taught him "that quality of material will rise above and succeed, and that's why it's so important to choose the right songs. 'Three Wooden Crosses' did something for us that I thought we'd never see again -- turning into something that is like a signature song."
Travis and the folks at Warner Bros. are hoping that lightning will strike again with his new single, "Dig Two Graves."
The album's first single, "Faith in You," didn't perform as hoped, failing to dent Hot Country Songs. Travis says part of the problem may have been the title. "We did get people wondering, 'Is this a gospel project?' because of the title, and I guess I could understand that, but I thought it was a good choice for a single," he says.
For "Around the Bend," Travis again worked with longtime producer Kyle Lehning. "When Kyle and I started working together years ago, he said, 'I want to help you make the best record we can make, and past that, it's you singing these songs every night. So if you don't love it, don't do it.' I've stuck by that," Travis says.