March-April, 2008

ARTIST: DAVE TRAVIS

TITLE: 12-STRING CRAZY

RELEASE: December 6, 2005

CALIFORNIA'S DESERT YIELDS A ROUGH-EDGED DIAMOND OF A SINGER-SONGWRITER

By Terry Roland

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Singer-songwriter Dave Travis is an undiscovered gem. Working as an independent artist has provided him with artistic freedom, allowing him to develop both his style and lyrical content. His new release, 12-String Crazy, is a diverse collection of songs yielding a unique, fresh and original style of Americana music combining folk, country, blues, soul, gospel and rock. His influences are clear throughout this stream of songs, but his distinctive instrumental, vocal and writing style demonstrate an artist who has a strong sense of his own voice and vision.

With a vocal style that's as soulful as it is desert dry, he descends to the low gravel of Tom Waits then ascends to the falsetto high of Al Green carrying with him the songwriting sensibility of Mickey Newbury. It's an engaging blend. To make these comparisons does not detract from the sense that he has found his own style. He is clearly traveling through his own musical terrain with the songs on 12-String Crazy. Barreling past road signs that may at times suggest caution, he comes up with a rare creative richness.

12-String Crazy takes the listener through a back road journey alongside stories of betrayal, disappointment and redemption. The songs clearly draw from Southern California and most distinctively from the desert and coastal areas for imagery and stories. Songs like I Could Not Have Done It Better point to the inadequacy one feels as a relationship falls apart. The visual is of someone grasping at something that has already been lost. The richness of California's long-standing Hispanic culture is illustrated beautifully in stories like Margarita Sayin’ Goodbye, which rings with a beautiful slide guitar accompaniment. Drawn To The Storm sketches a personal scene of an encounter with beauty during a rain storm on the California coast. This song, perhaps the strongest on the album, invites the listener in through the strength of an epiphany captured in song:

On rainy winter nights like these

I find myself in my van by the sea

watching the waves in their passionate rage

carve on the beach, write their own page

Yes, my darlin' I believe it's true

In that passion they are much like you

Intensity hidden beneath beautiful form

I have always been drawn to the storm

Other songs include a condemnation of corporate America, Big Business, and a parody of a honky-tonk song, 20 Years Younger. A blues version of The Star Spangled Banner provides a healthy risk on the writer's part that effectively pays off in artistic and patriotic dividends. The arrangement brings the song down from sacred, clichéd mindless anthem status to a thoughtful bluesy meditation on the cost of patriotism that nonetheless endures. He is ever mindful of the loss of so many of our young people at war in Iraq and ultimately, of the countless lives lost from the many wars America has suffered through. This unusual interpretation reminds us that this is a song born of war and in so doing becomes its own vehicle of protest. Yet, it never preaches; instead the song portrays the American journey through war. Travis punctuates this with Cost of Freedom at the end of the song.

Apropos of the title, 12 String Crazy, the central players here are Travis and his 12-string guitar which rings clearly on each song. The remaining instruments are many and varied, depending on the folk, blues, rock or soul orientation of the song. Travis even finds the opportunity along the way to bring along the native American flute, synthesizers, brass, cellos and what sounds like a synthesized opera vocal on the extended experimental instrumental, Los Dos Erres.

The brilliance of Travis’ 12 String Crazy is how the music emerges into a sound of organic originality calling to mind the spiritual essence of the California desert and Pacific coast carefully woven into the texture of the music. It also gives an intimate look at the miracle, not only of the natural world, but the interior world of the human spirit, captured in these brilliant songs. Travis never fails to engage and invite the listener into his personal exploration through the landscape of soul and the world around him.

Dave Travis website is www.myspace.com/davetravis


Terry Roland is an English teacher, freelance writer, occasional poet, songwriter and folk and country enthusiast. The music has been in his blood since being raised in Texas. He came to California where he was taught to say 'dude' at an early age