Sounds Like: Eighties-era Randy Newman with an earnest James Taylor softness, but scuffed up just enough by a guy with plenty of miles on the road – and in the air (he's a licensed pilot)
For Fans of: John Fullbright, Robert Ellis covering Paul Simon on The Lights from the Chemical Plant, Heartbreaker-era Ryan Adams
Why You Should Pay Attention: Tell anyone in Oklahoma that Travis Linville is an up-and-coming artist, and they'll balk. A sideman for Hayes Carll for almost a decade, Linville's been releasing solo records that have transformed him into a bit of a folk legend in the Sooner State – he even taught Parker Millsap to play guitar and hosted John Fullbright in his studio – but never quite grabbed the spotlight once things crossed state lines. His newest LP, Up Ahead, hopes to change all that with songs that resound with uncomplicated authenticity – as a player in other people's bands, you could expect some showboating from this gifted instrumentalist. Instead, subtlety and storytelling with shuffling hints of jazz are what shine through. "I take a whole lot of pride in knowing when it's time to be out front, and when it's not," Linville says. It's time.
He says: "I wrote a lot of these songs on piano. I never perform at the piano, but I wrote a lot of them that way. When you play guitar, especially when it's your main instrument, there are a lot of obvious things you go to. If I sit down with a guitar, I know what going to happen. If I sit at a piano, I have to decide what's going to happen."
Hear for Yourself: The reverb-laced shuffle of "Wishes" that offers hints of Tom Petty and roots-rock that's as mature as the lyrics. M.M.