Artist: Travis Linville
Album: Up Ahead
Label: Self Released
Release Date: 02/03/2017
Long-time Hayes Carll sideman, Travis Linville, steps out as a front man to deliver an album of engaging melodic tunes. The multi-instrumentalist displays his chops on vocals, guitars, lap steel, pedal steel, mandolin and dobro, but the most impressive element is his songwriting.
Recording the album in Norman, Oklahoma, Travis recruited four session players who have played with him live: bassist David Leach, keyboardist Ryan Jones and percussionists Matt Duckworth and Mike Meadows. The process was rather interesting as described by Linville, “I had a bunch of half-written songs, and in some cases just musical road maps, so I brought some musicians into the studio for a marathon live tracking to songs they didn’t know—and I didn’t either at that point. The idea was to create a musical track for me to write over to finish out the song.”
This is not Linville’s first effort, it’s actually his tenth full album. Independently, he has sold 15,000 albums and played thousands of shows as a bandleader or in support of Parker Milsap and Carll. He’s been a vital cog in the Oklahoma roots music scene for over 20 years, but he is aiming for wider distribution and attention with this effort because he feels so elated about these songs. He should. From the jaunty rhythms of “Flowers in Your Hair” through the mostly uplifting ten tracks, his sense of humor, enormous gift for melody, and subtle instrumental touches make for delightful listening. Unlike some artists who are similarly talented, Linville does not showboat with soloing but instead, uses his and the supporting instruments in service to the song.
The tempo is slower on “Two Times the Fool,” a beautiful self-accusatory ballad rendered over simple piano chords. He continues his humble approach in “Finding My Way” (“I don’t know where I’m going but I’m finding my way”). “Bar Room” has a rather despondent country feel, driven by the pedal steel. “Fade to Winter” is similar to the opening track while the title track is a contemplative ballad which is refrained a bit in the closing track, “Looking back in time with heart full of trouble and a worried mind.”
Hayes Carll sums it up nicely, “Travis Linville writes plays and sings music the way it’s supposed to be done: with depth, heart and soul.” If you haven’t already, give Linville a listen. Even though he’s been doing this for a while now, maybe, as Carll did several years ago, Linville too could earn the Americana Music Award for Emerging Artist.