Travis Meadows - First Cigarette
Travis Meadows’ life is frankly overwhelming. He’s suffered parental abandonment, childhood cancer, addictions/rehabs, many years of preaching and, not least, composing and playing some exceptional music. Somehow he seems to have lived every lyric that I have in my record collection.
First Cigarette is his third release and boasts some impressive collaborations starting with Jay Joyce, who literally has a ‘who’s who’ of Nashville talent using his production services – Keith Urban, Little Big Town, Brandy Clark & Eric Church, the list is much longer but you get the picture. After you’ve written hit records for Dierks Bentley and Jake Owens then you have a lot of Country song writing luminaries on speed dial and several appear in the credits.
So this is all bright and shiny Country pop? Well not at all although it does have some of that sensibility as regards a melody, a layered sound and some compelling words. We start gently with “Sideways" as Meadows sings with an acoustic guitar before the backing creeps in. The words set the scene for a trip through a life that has had its battles, defeats and victories - “If I could buy myself a conscience that wasn’t broken, Mend every fence I drove my hard head through, Re-lock all the doors I wish I never opened, Unlearn the things I wish I never knew, And it came through the bottle, It came out through my fists, It came out way to early, I wish it never did.”
Fasten your seat belt we may experience turbulence.
"Pray For Jungleland" obviously references The Boss but the whole album lyrically reminded me of the storytelling skills of the New Jersey deity. It is here that Meadows’ slightly straining but insistent and attractive voice brings a conviction and gravity to the rendition.
The title track "First Cigarette" has a stunning vocal as Meadows against a sparse arrangement tells of his reaching a point where he’s learned a lot of lessons and is able to cope with life and take simple pleasures. In fact he’s said that after kicking various addictions then he’s staying with cigarettes as his last remaining legal indulgence!
“Underdogs" sees the stadium raise their hands above their heads to clap in time with the hypnotic drum beat and roar out the chorus - “We are – we are, we are the underdogs”. After a little while I can envisage a skinny man wearing a denim shirt with long hair stepping forward for a few incendiary guitar licks before the spotlight fades on him and all the band find a microphone to sing out the song in unison. A simple lyric, a simple tune but a major impact.
“Pontiac" is back with Bruce and I reckon I would be trying your patience by quoting another lyric but this is a terrific Rock paean to someone who is finding their way through their emotional and material millennial adventures.
All the compositions really deserve a name check but suffice to say that the voice leads with a great tune, lyrics that make you want to catch every word and arrangements that showcase rather than swamp to compensate for any shortage of creativity or talent.
Much of the record could sit comfortably on a Rock station playlist. It isn’t Country, but there again who cares? The point is that you’re going to like this a lot.