This record’s most remarkable feature is that songs with many contributing musicians—the average is about 12—can sound so cohesive, and simple. The credits for “Let Me Try,” the ballad that leads off the disc, include four acoustic guitarists, electric and steel guitarists, a pair of pianists, a drummer, a bassist and four back-up singers. Yet the song comes across as a one-off run-through—albeit a perfect one—by a small group of soulmates. Credit both the producer (Kyle Lehning) and the consistency of Travis’ approach, which is based on an understated sincerity and a kind of reluctant masculinity. His alto falls between the hillbilly twang of Dwight Yoakam and the cockier style of George Strait, making High Lonesome a quick 32-minute course in basic country. Travis missteps at times. “Oh, What a Time to Be Me,” one of five tracks Travis co-wrote, is a friendly little ditty that breezes along with all the heft of a lemonade commercial.
“Point of Light” basically plagiarizes George Bush’s familiar volunteer theme. But Travis’ vocal skills are apparent when set against the backdrop of Take 6, a respected a cappella group, for the gospel-like “I’m Gonna Have A little Talk.” And the appeal of “I’d Surrender All” is universal: despite his surface obstinance, the protagonist would give it all up for a call from his ex. Travis brings the anguish home.