October 02, 1989 12:00 PM

Keith Whitley

Any loss to country music pales, of course, beside the fact that Morgan Whitley, 8, and her brother, Jesse, 2, lost their father and Lorrie Morgan lost her husband when Keith Whitley died in May due to an alcohol overdose. (Whitley had acknowledged his alcoholism.)

But this final album, recorded a month before his death, compounds the sadness by demonstrating how he had matured as a singer. It’s a showcase for his deep, buttery-smooth voice and the twang of an accent that made him sound a lot like Randy Travis. Whitley proved on this album he could handle the tearjerkers, such as “Between an Old Memory and Me” (Charlie Craig-Keith Stegall), as well as such livelier tunes as “Turn This Thing Around” (Gene Nelson-Gary Harrison): “Now this second thought I’m having/Is the first thing I’ve done right.” And he and co-producer Garth Fundis gave the record a calm, don’t-it-sound-easy tone.

The inclusion in the finished product of “Tennessee Courage,” a song about a bar-hanging hard drinker seems in bad taste as much as it seems poignant. And the album title is on the maudlin side.

But the only really unhappy thoughts that the album generates inevitably revolve around the tragic end of a life of 33 years. (A Keith Whitley Memorial Fund has been established at the Vanderbilt Institute for Treatment of Addiction, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Zerfoss Building, SS4400, Nashville, Tenn. 37232-2780) (RCA)

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