REVIEW: Travis Linville’s “Sounds of the Street” EP Shows Country Pedigree with Pop Inflections

Reviews

Tulsa singer Travis Linville cut these 6 tunes between solo tours & as a sideman for Hayes Carll. The first set of new songs since “Up Ahead” in 2017. Sounds of the Street (drops Oct 9-Independent). Recorded in Nashville at the late John Prine/David Ferguson studio it’s one of the last recorded there due to Covid-19 – for now.

Oklahoma’s Samantha Crain co-wrote 2. The songwriting is solid. The musicians are proficient though there isn’t anything marginally countryfied. “Loud Breakers,” is unassuming & compared to many songs that pass as country music today it’s faithful but, layered in pop balladry. Acceptable to some, passed on by others.

Travis’ voice has appeal but not at that Townes van Zandt/Guy Clark/Lyle Lovett level.

Old school music lovers will find these songs a little low-octane in the basic vintage country tradition. The songs have a country pedigree but are loaded with lots of pop inflections. It’s a good soup with a pinch too much salt. I admit this is the recipe that’s popular…for now.

“Baton Rouge,” is another appetizing song with an economy of flavor. No dynamic vocal tonality like Billy Swan, Willie Nelson, or George Strait. The solo is a solid takeoff & the musician’s avail themselves well. Travis’ voice is pleasant it just doesn’t ignite as it should on keywords. The music has a lift but lacks an inventive arrangement. It has a nice trot but never runs.

The PR says many songs were played live in 1 or 2 takes. That’s obvious. I don’t think the songs are at fault. They need a more aggressive producer. That’s the spice lacking in what is otherwise good work.

“Brokenhearted #1” is actually terrific but up against arrangements bestowed upon artists like Sturgill Simpson, it isn’t going to raise eyebrows.

“Sounds of the Street,” puts me off with its tinkling electric piano. The band Alda Reserve used it effectively but that was in the 80s & their melodies were stronger. It’s cheesy sound, a real acoustic piano would’ve given the song muscle. Travis sings this straight & it suffers. Lyrical inflection, phrasing & intonation is needed. Without these, a good voice will leave a song with no color. The song itself is fine — & if it’s country the distortion & harsh guitars meshed with the electric piano — it’s wrongheaded.

Travis is a good songwriter, singer & musician. But not a good producer. This is why we rely on someone with experience. An abrupt end to the song? This melody should fade as if he walks away. That’s powerful.

Travis is a good artist, but he should release material only when it’s fermented. No reason to rush these songs out. Play them live more.

Produced by Travis with Dominic John Davis. No physical CD — download only. Available at Amazon & http://www.travislinvillemusic.com/

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