Rise and Shine
- reviewed by Andy Argyrakis Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2002 1 Oct
These days in country music, artists leaning towards a more traditional, roots-oriented sound are the definite minority. There's either the group of pop-country divas who water down such sounds (Faith Hill, Shania Twain, Lee Ann Womack, and Jo Dee Messina) or the combative movement boasting a rebel-like alternative insurgence (Lucinda Williams, Robert Earl Keen, Patty Griffin). In recent years, Americana's preserving grace was the
The newest project on Travis' comeback trail maintains a similar harmony between traditional sounds and spiritual leanings, and instead of remakes,
It's that son who was born out of wedlock that starts off the disc ("Raise Him Up") with a subtle steel guitar and a sea of backing vocalists to assist a storyline comparable to Joseph's relationship with Jesus. Even though Joseph wasn't Jesus' birth father, he obeyed God's calling to raise him nonetheless, serving as the ultimate example for a new parent who might otherwise neglect his or her baby simply because of less than ideal circumstances. "If You Only Knew" also touches on the life and death cycle, chronicling the emotions of a family watching their grandfather die. Throughout Travis' roughneck tenderness, the emotional tale unfolds, reminding us to make the most of our time on earth with our loved ones before it's too late. Such a scenario builds a thematic bridge to "I'm Ready," a song about always being prepared, not only for when the Lord wills to take our loved ones or us from this earth, but for the moment of his glorious return. It's on this selection that the somber and melancholy mood of the former is spiced up with a honky-tonk hoedown of celebration. The title cut also boasts such fingerpicking fury and an overjoyed attitude, praising the Lord for his resurrection and encouraging listeners to take up their cross daily. That guitar-picking pattern later is replaced with the fiddle-friendly "Keep Your Lure in the Water," during which Travis sings of witnessing to others: "Keep your lure in the water, don't just sit by the shore / There are souls to be caught everywhere in this old world / Go where hearts are plenty, don't just drift with the tide."
As memorable as the metaphors between lures, tackle, and witnessing are, it doesn't extend as neatly into another key track on the album, "Pray for the Fish," a rather clichéd song about baptism and renewal. The meshing of steel guitars, fiddles, and Travis' especially forced drawl seem rote and uninspiring compared to some of the album's more uplifting and inventive arrangements. Such predictable moments also occasionally pop up on the dull acoustics of "That's Jesus" and the almost identically structured "The Gift," both of which settle for obvious spiritual truisms instead of the creative and thoughtful lyrics that enhance the rest of the album.
Travis may not score during every moment on this 45-minute collection, but he does provide a necessary link between his loyal, potentially unchurched fan base and the timeless gospel messages that made him come to the faith. He's also one of the few country singers maintaining the legacy of legends such as Merle Haggard, George Jones, and Lefty Frizell. Those who already own