Ricky Van Shelton was steering toward No. 1 with his thoughtful 1991 single, “Keep It Between the Lines,” right around the time I was learning to drive. I can remember watching this music video on TNN: The Nashville Network in the evenings and being struck by how it told the stories of three generations in one short song and how the lyrics went way beyond simple driving lessons.
In the ballad written by Kathy Louvin and Russell Smith, Shelton recalls a father’s advice to a nervous son who’s about to get behind the wheel. In the second verse, the young son is the one with wise words, yet the payoff is in the third verse when the story takes a spiritual turn.
Two decades later, the advice is still worth considering: “Keep your hands on the wheel/Believe in the things that are real/Just take your time/And keep it between the lines.”
Blessed with a rich, resonant baritone, Shelton joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1988 and acquired 17 Top 10 hits in his career. He faced some personal and professional setbacks in the early 1990s. According to the Opry website, he made his last performance there in 2004 and now focuses on painting, flying and writing children’s books.
Looking back, the Virginia native stands as one of the most traditional voices of his era. Check out Ricky Van Shelton’s “Keep It Between the Lines.”