By Brian Tucker
There’s a kind balance to the recently released self-titled album by local singer-songwriter Travis Shallow. Perhaps that balance is intuitive, or perhaps it’s just the weight of sequencing of an album. Either way, the result is music both intimate and personal, where a storyteller’s eye paints pictures through song and musicianship that feels solid as old fashioned furniture. Travis Shallow is seven songs, but the heft of the singer’s careful, raspy ‘n soulful delivery along with observational lyricism gives it larger presence.
Shallow will perform a special acoustic solo show on Friday, May 13th at The Palm Room located on Wrightsville Beach.
The musician has been playing in the area for many years, solo and with his band The Deep End as well as the trio A Few Good Liars. But in all these incarnations is Shallow the singer, whose voice is a combination of gentle, husky growl, honey soaked timbre, and a patient delivery that comes off more as an arm around your shoulder than an easy tug on the heart.
The work on Travis Shallow is soulful but lush sounding throughout, with Shallow’s voice front and center surrounded by crisp acoustic guitar and organ/piano playing. He made the album at Tweed Recording Studio in Oxford, Mississippi, choosing to record songs not digitally but to 2-inch analog tape. The last local album I recall done this way was Thunderlip’s The Prophecy in 2007 and sometimes you’ll hear about a mainstream album done this way (Foo Fighters). The process, one not used as much anymore, gives an album warmth and weight.
You’ll hear that weight on a song like “Stones Throw” where slide guitar and organ playing haunts it. Shallow’s vocals have an ethereal quality and the song blends together somber tones with gospel reverie. Just opposite is “Sugarcane Gamblers,” a song that shines and unfurls like struggling to do so is part of the joy.
But it’s “Take Your Time” that hits a high mark on the album while also sending a message about the travails of youth, yearning, enjoying life and to “age like wine.” He sings, “slow down, take your time…the world can take your plans and turn them upside down.” He brings them home with paternal sincerity on album closer “One Day,” offering hope through lyrics like “live your life, love strong…” and “a strong foundation and a steady hand start to fill in the cracks…”
Shallow is a singer whose vocal personality is ultimately a category unto itself, like a Willie Nelson, an Otis Redding. He could sing anything and make it sound great, make it well worth listening to. His new album has seven songs like that.