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What started with a simple desire to entertain has turned into something that is almost a holy calling for Collin Raye.

The man with the most muscular tenor in country music still puts on shows that are electrifying in their intensity. But as album after album sells Platinum and single after single hits No. l on the charts, Collin has found that there is something deeper and more profound about what he does than merely entertaining people.

"In the beginning, I wanted hits and all that," he reflects. "But what drives me now is what this music means to people. Songs have landed on me that made me realize there's more to this than I thought. It's about entertaining people one minute and healing them the next. It's kinda like a ministry.

People have carved the lyrics to "Love, Me" on tombstones and gotten married to the strains of "In This Life." The Tennessee Task Force on Domestic Violence lauded him for the social conscience of his video "I Think About You." "Not That Different" carried an anti-racist message. Nearly 200,000 calls poured into Al-Anon's 1-800 number after Collin included it in his video for "Little Rock." And millions have danced to such joyous performances as "On the Verge," "My Kind of Girl," "That's My Story" and "Every Second.

"Music can make a difference," says the performer of such powerful material as "One Boy, One Girl," "That Was a River" and "What the Heart Wants." Winning an award isn't enough incentive for me. People come to these shows because these songs are inspiring to them. That's what gets me on that tour bus every week. That's what keeps me interested in making records. "
It has been two-and-a-half years since Collin Raye issued a set of new country songs. So he approached My Walls Came Down with conviction, respect and determination.

"I've poured more blood, sweat and tears into this record than any in the past," says the man with five Platinum Records and nine No.l singles under his belt. "I co-produced some of the new songs on the hits album, but this is the first full-fledged album where I've sunk in my teeth from beginning to end. This time, I was there throughout the creation of every note of music.

He also contributed as a songwriter. "Start Over Georgia" and "My Walls Came Down" signify Collin Raye's blossoming as a tunesmith like never before. Always a peerless lyric interpreter, he brings pangs of regret to "I Can Still Feel You," fatherly concern to "I Wish I Could" and sweet bliss to "April Fool."

There's a renewed commitment to classic country music in such "hurtin" tunes as "Someone You Used to Know" and "Make Sure You've Got It All." He sails through the groove of "Anyone Else" with the finesse of a rhythm master. And on "Corner of the Heart" Collin proves once again that few singers can equal him as a romantic.

What has always set Collin Raye apart is his willingness to tackle lyrics that go far beyond typical love songs and dance ditties. "All My Roads" and "Survivors" are relationship songs with hope that don't for a moment gloss over the troubles and difficulties that lovers must endure. "The Eleventh Commandment" is a harrowing indictment of child abuse.

"I think it's important to touch on issues. 'Little Rock,"What If Jesus Comes Back Like That' and 'I Think About You' were songs that allowed me to become accepted as making statements. I think my whole seven years in country music have prepared me for this. I want to use 'The Eleventh Commandment' as a torch to bring this subject out into the light."

The father of two has always been passionate about children's issues. Collin says he wants this song to become a video vehicle to publicize and raise funds for the Kids Place organization that deals with America's epidemic of child abuse.

His own childhood was partly spent on stage. Both parents were musical and his mother, Lois Wray, was a regionally popular performer in East Texas who opened shows for Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins in the 1950s. Collin was on stage with her and performing professionally at age 7.

When he was 13 he and his older brother Scott formed The Wray Brothers band. They began performing in the roadhouses of the Lone Star State as teenagers, then became headliners in Portland, Oregon and in the gambling casinos of Reno, Nevada. Then known as "Bubba Wray," Collin became a walking encyclopedia of songs and a passionate showman.

He first attracted Nashville's attention as the lead vocalist on a string of independent-label singles in the 1980s. Billed as "The Wrays," the act released a couple of singles on Mercury Records in 1986-87 before - breaking up. Scott is now a songwriter for his brother's publishing company.

Collin had married in 1980 and by mid decade he was the father of daughter Brittany, born in 1983, and son Jacob, born in 1985. After The Wrays brbke up he considered the prospect of giving up music for the first time in his life. He wanted to be a better father, a better provider for them. Although now divorced, he lives next door to ex-wife Connie in Greenville, Texas and takes an extremely active role in child rearing. Brittany appeared in her father's video "I Think About You" and both children are in the clip for "Love, Me."

They say the darkest hour is just before dawn. With the prospect of factory work looming on Collin Raye's horizon, Epic Records signed him in 1990. A year later his solo career caught fire when "Love, Me" became the first of his many chart-topping hits.

His incendiary stage shows, unflagging charity work, sincere approach and unerring song taste have brought Collin Raye to the forefront of Nashville music. In 1996 and 1997 he competed as country's Male Vocalist of the Year. He has played to more than 2.2 million people. In short, Collin is a bona fide star.

But to the man with the larger-than-life voice, the philosophical bent, the sincere humanity and the undeniable stage mastery, this isn't about stardom. It's about making music that matters. My Walls Came Down is a landmark recording in a career that's already studded with them. It is Collin Raye at his most passionate and personal.


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