Sounds like … the popular country artist performing Southern gospel, contemporary worship, and American hymns in his own traditional country/bluegrass styleAt a glance … well performed and well intentioned, Worship & Faith will strike some as unoriginal and others as inspiring and heartfelt
Since the release of his first gospel album, Inspirational Journey, in 2000, Randy Travis has enjoyed great success as both a Christian and country recording artist. His second spiritual release, 2002's Rise & Shine, was recently certified gold and generated the chart-topping country music single "Three Wooden Crosses"—an unprecedented achievement for a gospel music label and Travis' first No. 1 hit in four years. That song went on to win the 2003 Country Music Award for Song of the Year—another first for a Christian record label.
It's interesting that the popular artist has now recorded Worship & Faith, an album of 20 traditional and contemporary worship favorites. It's something you might expect from an artist who grew up singing in the church, but that's not the case here. After a delinquent adolescence, Travis turned to Christ during the rise of his career in the mid-'80s and was eventually baptized in 1996. So instead of a return to his roots, Worship & Faith is an exploration of Travis' newfound Christian heritage.
The album runs a fairly wide gamut of worship. There are classic American hymns like "How Great Thou Art," "Blessed Assurance," "Softly and Tenderly," and, featuring a duet with Third Day's Mac Powell, "Love Lifted Me." There are Southern gospel hallmarks like "Sweet By and By," "Peace in the Valley," "Just a Closer Walk With Thee," and "Shall We Gather at the River?" And there are country-gospel favorites like "He's My Rock, My Sword, My Shield," "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?", "Farther Along," and "Turn Your Radio On." But perhaps most surprising are his covers of modern praise & worship: "Above All," "We Fall Down," "Open the Eyes of My Heart," and "You're Worthy of My Praise."
If you know Travis' sound, you pretty much know what to expect of these arrangements. His distinctive and familiar baritone sings over straightforward bluegrass-country-gospel arrangements. Producer Kyle Lehning, who has overseen Travis' biggest hits over the years, keeps things acoustic and simple. The back cover states, "No electric instruments were used in the making of this CD"—it almost sounds like an EPA disclaimer. Primarily recorded near Travis' home in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the sound is very traditional and charming with its simple arrangements and array of acoustic guitars, mandolins, fiddles, banjos, strings, and other country instruments.
Fans should also be aware of the Worship & Faith DVD sold separately, featuring Travis in concert at Orlando's Calvary Assembly of God. The 65-minute set includes songs from Worship & Faith and Rise & Shine, along with some behind-the-scenes and backstage commentary. It's a pleasure to watch Travis and his talented band perform, and the production is good, but it's also quite predictable, especially in the way it cuts to audience members caught up in the middle of worship.
Many will undoubtedly view Worship & Faith devoid of creativity and originality. For thousands of others, this is a well-intentioned portrait of a country music superstar continuing to firmly embrace his faith, and in the process offering exactly what his newfound Christian audience wants to hear. Both points of view are correct. The album is neither groundbreaking nor a simple attempt to jump on the worship bandwagon. Suffice to say, Worship & Faith is bound to strike a chord with those who appreciated Randy Travis' last inspirational outing.