I was raised on country classics like Tanya Tucker, Alabama, George Strait and Kenny Rogers, but I really got excited about the time I turned 15…that’s the first time I heard Travis Tritt sing. Travis was the leather-clad, long-haired, no-hat, outlaw of the class of ’89 that ushered in the mega success of country music in the 1990’s. It included artists like Alan Jackson, Clint Black, Vince Gill and some guy named Garth. Known for putting some drive in his country, Travis took his foot off of the pedal just a bit as he performed an acoustic show to a sold-out crowd at the Lewis Family Playhouse in Rancho Cucamunga Saturday night, January 31st.
This was my fifteenth time seeing Travis in concert and it was my favorite one by far. Although it wasn’t the hard-driving show Travis fans may be used to, it was actually a more powerful trip through Travis’ hits and the songs and artists that influenced him. He sat on a stool with his guitar and told stories and sang songs for 2 hours and 20 minutes. He said that even fans that have known him from the beginning would leave knowing more about him and his career than they did when the show started and he was right. As he said it would be, it felt like a few hundred of his closest friends were sitting in his living room listening to stories and songs.
He sang amazing acoustic versions of a lot of his biggest hits, like his very first single “Country Club,” “I’m Gonna Be Somebody,” “Here’s A Quarter,” and the howling good time sing along “It’s A Great Day To Be Alive.” Travis really has an amazing voice and it is displayed so well with just him and his guitar. It was displayed best on the incredible version of “Anymore.” Before he sang the song he told the story about his performance of it at the 1992 American Music Awards. He was just supposed to be in the crowd as a nominee and not have to present or perform. However, that Garth guy was expecting a baby and had to cancel, so Dick Clark personally met Travis at the airport and took him straight to the theater to rehearse. There were pop artists doing incredible production numbers with fireworks and all the special effects, but Garth was going to just sit on the edge of the stage with his guitar and sing, so that is what they wanted Travis to do. He was nervous, but it went great and the song became a huge hit for him.
He did a lot of great covers of songs by artists that influenced him. “Lone Wolf” by fellow outlaw Hank Williams Jr, “I Walk The Line” by Johnny Cash, “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way,” “The Dukes Of Hazard Theme,” and “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys,” by Waylon Jennings including a great imitation of Willie on that last one, and a version of “500 Miles Away From Home” which had been done by Jerry Reed and Bobby Bare.
He combined those cover songs with great stories about the artists. He talked about what great influences Waylon and Johnny were. They were both supportive of him through his label as an outlaw in the country music industry. He said that Johnny Cash would write him letters once in a while and he still has them and treasures them today. He also remembered Little Jimmy Dickens, who passed away in December, by telling some funny stories that Jimmy had shared with him. He had developed a great friendship with Ray Charles as well. Travis did a great blues version of one of his songs as well.
He also performed songs of his that were not big hits or even singles, including “It’s All About The Money,” “The Pressure Is On,” and “Country Ain’t Country No More.” The latter included my favorite part of the night… the extra verse he wrote for the song, which went “You turn CMT on and you wonder what for, Country ain’t country no more.” I have seen him do that before, and I absolutely love it. It is funny to think that Travis and other new artists were said to be pushing the lines of what country music was back in the 90’s. It seems like now those lines are being completely broken by some of the new artists. It was great to see Travis perform his own country songs and talk about the country artists that he grew up admiring and that he respects so much.
On that note, it was fitting that he ended the amazing evening with a version of the classic country anthem, “Will The Circle Be Unbroken.” Just when I start to think that the circle may be broken by the hick-hop, bro-country that dominates country radio, it is great to know that artists like Travis are still touring and putting on amazing shows. I loved the show so much that I did not realize until later that there was one disappointment in the show. He did not perform his two most recent songs, “Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough (duet with his daughter) and “That’s What Dreamers Do.” It is too bad that they have not gotten much, if any radio play. They are great songs. Other than that, it was the perfect concert. If you ever have the chance to see him in concert, do not miss it – it will be worth any trouble getting there!