November 13, 2000 12:00 PM

Travis Tritt (Columbia Nashville)

Having recorded 11 No. 1 singles and sold 17 million albums, Tritt didn’t need to wreak any major changes in his gritty, neo-honky-tonk singing style. Yet after taking 18 months off (which included the birth of his and wife Theresa’s second child, a son), Tritt emerges sounding strangely like Kenny Rogers, right down to the hokey catch in the voice and the melodramatic story song, in this case an ill-advised tribute to a couple of sadistic thugs, “Modern Day Bonnie and Clyde.” Tritt’s slightly gravelly voice has always resembled Rogers’s, of course. But that hardly obliges him to emulate the schmaltzier, least admirable aspects of the Gambler’s style. Happily, Tritt sounds more like himself on the trenchant “Southbound Train” (cowritten by Tritt and Charlie Daniels) and “Just Too Tired to Fight It” (by Tritt and Stewart Harris). Heretofore the least derivative of modern country singers, Tritt doesn’t need to evoke any other singer. We liked him just fine the way he was.

Bottom Line: What’s next, Travis Tritt Roasted Chicken?

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