Several years ago, country music superstar Randy Travis made his home in Tioga (Texas), already on the music map as the birthplace of Gene Autry, and since then he has become "one of us."

Several years ago, country music superstar Randy Travis made his home in Tioga (Texas), already on the music map as the birthplace of Gene Autry, and since then he has become "one of us."


The seven-time Grammy award-winning icon released his 21st studio album "Influences Vol. 1: The Man I Am," last week, this one unique in several ways. The first is that it is the first studio-recorded CD in which his touring band provides the music, rather than studio musicians. Also, it is covers, strictly previously-recorded cover songs, and that is because he is honoring those country legends who have, as the title of the CD states, made him "The man I am." Although now Travis is himself an icon, he still considers those who paved the way for him as his personal idols, as those who were instrumental in his formative years and in the way he crafts his own music, even to this day.


The songs cover nine decades, beginning with the first-release date of 1924, Thelma La Vizzo’s blues/country song, "Trouble In Mind," which Merle Haggard re-released in 1996. This song has an amazing mix of fiddle, guitar, and steel guitar licks, accented with a rinky-tink piano break.


The last, or 13th song, on the CD is a new release, a tribute to his longtime friend, the late George Jones. Travis cut a duet with Joe Nichols on this one, "Tonight I’m Playin’ Possum," written by Keith Gattis. He debuted this song at the 2013 Country Music Association festival in June.


Other songs on the record were made great by Ernest Tubb, Lefty Frizzell, Louis Armstrong in 1926 and then Haggard in 1985 ("Big Butter & Egg Man"); Waylon Jennings ("Because You Asked Me To" co-written by Jennings and Willie Nelson in the 1970s); and the great George Jones himself.


Randy Travis was among those hopefuls hanging out in Nashville in the mid 1980s, making open mics and slinging burgers in a club, which now might be labeled a ‘bar and grill.’ His first CD was "Storms of Life" in 1986, and that’s the one that rocketed him into the limelight.


"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," Travis said in a press release.


Somehow, in all the mix and variety of styles and musicians that Travis chose to honor and emulate with this project, he still manages in this new CD to keep his own style completely intact. The voice, the style, is unmistakably Randy Travis; the arrangements are mixes of the original musicians and of Travis’ own band.


The remaining songs on this CD include: "Someday We’ll Look Back" (Haggard, 1971); "What Have You Got Planned Tonight, Diana?" (Haggard, 1976); "Ever Changing Woman" (Haggard, 1980); "Pennies From Heaven" (Bing Crosby 1936, Haggard, 1986); "Thanks A Lot" (Ernest Tubb, 1964); "My Mary" (Haggard and Nelson, 1983); "Saginaw Michigan" (Frizzell, 1964); "Always On A Mountain When I Fall" (Haggard, 1978); "Why Baby Why?" (Jones, 1955). They are all Warner Brothers Records songs, and it was Warner Brothers that first signed Travis after many others passed on him.


Travis suffered critical health problems earlier this year, and those around him only comment now that he has been allowed to return to his home and is working hard on his recovery. He had this project in the can before those bad times hit.


Luxurious classic country, "Influences Vol. 1: The Man I Am" is available in stores and on Internet purchase sites, including ITunes. A must for the country music lover in all of us.