Randy coverThis hasn’t been an easy summer for seven-time GRAMMY winner, Randy Travis. In spite of a stroke, followed by emergency surgery to save his life, and with recovery continuing, Randy has just released his 21st studio album. The album, called "Influence, Vol. 1: The Man I Am," went on sale today (Sept. 30, 2013).

Randy and his music have been a major influence to many other country artists throughout his celebrated career. In the new album, he looks back at some of the songs and artists that were instrumental in crafting his music, including George Jones, Lefty Frizzell, Merle Haggard, and many others. "When I think of my musical heroes of yesteryear, or the younger stars of this year, I am reminded that it is true we learn from the ones ahead of us, and teach the ones that follow. They are the reason I chose to make this album," Randy said.

Most of the songs on the new CD are what you would expect to hear from Randy Travis, a few are not. When I listened "Pennies From  Heaven," the first name that came to my mind was Bing Crosby. Bing made that 1936 song famous when he introduced it in the movie of the same name.  That was 23 year years before Randy was even born.

However, the fact that the song was recorded by Bing Crosby, Billie Holiday, Louie Prima and even Frank Sinatra has nothing to do with the reason Randy included it on this album. What many people, even country music fans, may not remember is that the song was also done by Merle Haggard. Any song Randy felt influenced his music and helped him to grow as an artist are included on this new album.

"Pennies From Heaven" really isn’t a song that I would have picked for inclusion on the CD. I really would have liked him to have done my favorite Merle Haggard song, "If We Make It Through December". Since this album is titled Influence: Volume 1, there might be a chance my favorite Merle song will end up on another volume of what will hopefully be a series of albums for Randy.

Here is the track list: Someday We’ll Look Back, Big Butter and Egg Man, What Have You Got Planned Tonight Diana, Ever Changing Woman, Thanks a Lot, Trouble in Mind, My Mary Album, Saginaw Michigan, I’m Always on a Mountain When I Fall, You Asked Me To, Why Baby Why and Tonight I’m Playin’ Possum, which is a duet with Joe Nichols. The Collectors package also includes a digital album, t-shirt, print edition, and an instant download of the duet with Joe Nichols.

I found myself listening most to the ones that sounded like songs Randy would sing. Those were the songs that reminded me why I am a long-time fan of this country music icon. While "Someday We’ll Look Back" was a little bluesy for me, it was still very much country, and Randy did a great job with it.  "Thanks A Lot" just didn’t really seem to work with Randy’s music style. That one reminded me of the 40s and 50s ‘big band’ sound. However, there is nothing on the CD that is new, modern, pop or rock. I was really glad to see that. When you listen, you will understand why he selected the songs he did for this project. The entire album is good, and I’m sure it will spend as much time in the CD player of every Randy Travis fan as it is going to spend in mine.

At randytravis.com/preorder, you can listen to a 30 second clip of each of the songs on the new album, and from that page, click on "Enter Site" to keep up with all the latest news from Randy Travis. There are no show dates posted at this time, but I’m sure it won’t be long until he is able to get back on the road. You can also follow him on Twitter @randytravis.

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This hasn't been an easy summer for seven-time GRAMMY winner, Randy Travis. In spite of a stroke, followed by emergency surgery to save his life, and with recovery continuing, Randy has just released his 21st studio album. The album, called "Influence, Vol. 1: The Man I Am," went on...