Travis Linville's Sun or Moon : Out on the Wire (FULL ALBUM REVIEW)

Published: Dec 31 Posted Under:

Tags: 
Travis Linville

Travis Linville's Sun or Moon : Out on the Wire (FULL ALBUM REVIEW)

 Five years passed between Travis Linville’s first solo record, See You Around and the Sun or Moon EP. At first listen, it’s plain that it was a dynamic period that saw him transform from Travis Linville, guitar player to Travis Linville, songwriter. The opening song, which gives the collection its name, sets the tone for this new period of his output. “Sun or Moon” opens with a lightly overdriven electric guitar that evokes a conversational folk atmosphere and gently redirects the listener’s attention to Travis’s delivery of the song’s message of transformation. The entire track is rich with subdued musicality, cinematic without being showy, sparse like a Japanese brush painting where every new line is added with an eye towards the simplicity of the overall design. “Lefty,” a playful song written by Chuck Brodsky, is driven by the buzzing slide guitar at its heart. Though its loping rhythms represent one of the lighter moments on the album, the song’s story of a baseball pitcher who outlasted his natural gifts is anything but a throwaway. “Hang Around with You” features a breezy melody that is equal parts Beatles and JJ Cale, a love letter that carries just the right undertones of seriousness to avoid descending into the saccharine. “Last Call” is a torchy blues song, Linville’s rhythm guitar punching the accents like a Stax horn section while his subtle steel guitar lines dance subtly just beneath the thoughtful lyrics. “Same Old Road” closes out the side and demonstrates perfectly what Travis Linville 2.0 is all about. In one hand, it’s a classic bar band song about the real life challenges of being a working musician, balanced out with the sheer joy of performing for a receptive audience. On the other, it’s an unfiltered glimpse into the mind of its creator, not longer satisfied with hiding behind characters or narrators in his song. The personal is made universal but without the crutches of cliches and easy rhymes. 2014’s Out on the Wire extends upon the successes of its predecessors, removing the compositions even further from the context of a live band. “Thinking of You” reveals a Travis Linville with a new confidence in his voice as an instrument, suddenly co-equal with the many others he uses to weave this complex musical tapestry. Driven by a pulse that is only just subdued beneath the drowsy instrumentation, the song is a wide-raft that makes the white water beneath thrilling rather than deadly. Again, the instruments are so carefully chosen and interwoven that the product comes off much more effortlessly than the sum of its parts. “Rising Sun” is a fascinating ode to music as the traveling companion on the lifejourney of the musician, marking its territory at the birthplace of the blues at the crossroads between country and jazz. “Understatement” is one of the musical highlights of both albums, mixing the dissonance of bebop jazz with the comfortable cadences of folky pop. The sparse arrangement draws the listener into the ample atmosphere conjured up by the uncluttered observational tone of the lyric, the chords guiding us towards a final unresolved ambiguity. “Shoulder to the Wheel” captures the phenomena of Travis Linville as one man band, the troubadour armed with only with a wicked dobro, a harmonica and a story to tell about the challenges of living in the moment when that moment is always changing. Thematically, this song is a continuation of feelings first expressed in “Same Old Road” but with more emphasis on the shadows without diminishing the light. Out on the Wire ends like Sun or Moon began, with a song that lends the original EP its name. The title track is a production masterpiece -- delayed guitars shimmering under a bed of lyrics punctuated by dramatic pauses. Its dreamlike quality is heightened by the pointillistic orchestration and the starkly personal turns in the lyrics unspool into a heartbreaking apology for an unrepentant devotion to self. It’s hard to ignore Travis Linville’s transformation as a songwriter and instrumentalist on these two EPs, now smartly joined into one piece of vinyl magic. The guitar slinger has become the sage. For the first time in his already storied career, Travis Linville has aspects of his interior life, beyond his many gifts as a musician, that urgently demand a voice. The Sun or Moon/Out on the Wire album fulfills this promise to himself and to us in this unmistakable realization of his immense creative potential.