“First Cigarette” – Travis Meadows (2017) [english]

There are lives that seem to be made to be told and to excite the listener, journeys so poignant through adversities that they seem plots of auteur films. Rebirths and relapses worthy of dramatic novels, carved faces and eyes marked by suffering: here, the story of one of the American singer-songwriters most appreciated by professionals, but almost unknown to the general public, is all this. Travis Meadows is the living example that you should never give up and always believe, even when fate seems to tell you: “Forget it, man, it’s over”. Meadows was born in 1965 in Mississippi, and by the age of two, his innocent eyes had experienced the tragedy of his brother drowning. Life had not yet begun and had already made him realize that it would not be an easy journey. Then the divorce of the parents who decided to raise him with their grandparents, leaving him with that sense of inadequacy and rejection that would have pushed him already at the age of 11 years towards the spiral of drugs: perhaps the only way he felt to accept the world and his life. The same world that probably collapsed even more on him when he was diagnosed with bone cancer at 14. A tremendous battle to win for a teenager already tried by life that cost him “only” the right leg below the knee. During this time he played drums and guitar for various local blues bands, cradling in his soul the dream of one day becoming a professional musician. The first turning point in his life, the first sign of light came at the age of 20 when he found God and first became a missionary, then a Christian preacher. A strong vocation that led him to travel a lot and to preach the verb for 17 long years. Probably the strongest vocation, the one that always called him, was that of music that pushed him to Nashville, the cradle of American music, where he abandoned his vows and sought the fortune that for years had closed the door on him. In Nashville, he was noted for his storytelling talent as a true songwriter, as evidenced by his official 2007 recording debut My Life 101 with Universal and his first collaborations. A record that is very influenced by the sound of the first Springsteen, some really nice pieces, rough, but incisive. Listen to Play With Fire the voice is much more suffering than that of Boss, but the music is that American rock halfway between radio and songwriter that make him taste the success. His dream was coming true, but that success brought with it the whole package: drugs and alcohol, the spiral returned to wrap it, leading to depression and numerous trips to specialized centers. The sufferings of the soul, of that troubled adolescence, still demanded a very heavy bill. 2010 will be the fundamental year: sobriety achieved and maintained. During his last rehabilitation, his therapist had advised him to keep a travel diary, notes of his difficult history toward sobriety. Just this diary will be the source of the lyrics of his new album, indeed of his official debut of his new life in 2011: Killing Uncle Buzzy. The disc is a poignant journey of man in search of salvation and redemption, a climbing towards life after being plunged into a spiral of death and depression. A record much more raw and dry than the previous one, more oriented towards country folk than towards rock. The beautiful ballad that opens the album Minefield seems to come more from a novel Townes Van Zandt than from a novel Springsteen, but the character of his unique voice makes it original and opens even more the doors of music business. Already in 2009 Lynyrd Skynyrd used a piece of his own for a record of which came the title-track, God & Guns. Their heirs Blackberry Smoke also used his pieces for their records, such as the gorgeous Medicate My Mind in Find A Light (2018). Now his songs also climbed the charts in the hands of Nashville country nineties like Eric Church and Frankie Ballard, and many others. So many others. One of these, Jake Owen, reinterprets the wonderful What We Ain’t Got, present on the album and reaches the 14th place of the industry chart: the American dream was real. He had become so popular in Nashville that Rolling Stone magazine called him the best badass songwriter in Nashville. A success, however, that is more with the professionals than in the mass audience and after expiring his contract with Universal in 2013, he publishes for the independent label Kobalt Music a wonderful 7-piece EP, Old Ghosts And Unfinished Business. A record even drier and more direct than the previous one: a sad and exciting country that would have made proud the great Townes and Guy Clark, probably the two artists closest to ours for musical feeling. I’m sorry it’s too little. Listen to the ballad Good Country People: a wonderful fresco of roots, violins, banjo, but also unscrewed electric. Stupendous. A 7 years from complete sobriety, in 2017, gets a contract with another independent label Blaster Records and using a production that I would define the limits of perfection, churn out this First Cigarette, reaching an enviable artistic maturity. A niche artist, who will never reach planetary notoriety, maybe he doesn’t even care, but he is sure reference for quality folk country music. A record that highlights, more than the songs themselves, his ability to tell himself through them in a raw and believable way. A man who has not yet forgotten his past, as he could, but who can finally see rays of light filtering through, savoring the warmth on his skin. A narrator as there are few today, a voice that seems born to support this ability of storyteller, entering the soul with simple and effective words. It’s a record veiled with melancholy for past youth, as in Pray for Jungleland. Wonderful fresco with dedication not even so veiled in Springsteen, where the world revolved around friday night, the girls and the stereo that fired his songs, but also full of advice to those who, like him, has and will have a difficult life. The title track is a perfect example of this, where the author confesses that over time you learn to appreciate the little pleasures of life when there are, a bit like the first cigarette just awake in the morning. The author is not telling us that he has no regrets for what he was and just listen to the first Sideways song to realize it: “re-lock all the doors I wish I never opened / Unlearn the things I wish I never knew”, but accepting mistakes and always being hungry, as in Hungry, helps to move forward, helps to believe that it is possible to overcome everything and have your own place in this world. Meadows does not stop here and writes a hymn to the losers, the underdogs of this world, the Underdogs that despite everything shine like broken stars, despite the scars and lonely hearts: a hymn that will surely be the culmination of his live performances. The intense and exciting work closes with a fantastic ode to rock and roll: Long Live Cool. Probably the most sunny and light song of the album, but that served as an outlet for the intense emotions that an almost perfect album gave us, so much so that when you finish listening to it you wonder by what strange conjunction astral this disc was not properly celebrated as it deserved. A real jewel, even in the small details: like leaving between a song and another, short instrumental interludes without silences, which make it a real musical novel, a story all in one breath on the power of life in both dark and positive moments. An author tremendously similar in his artistic dynamics to the aforementioned Townes Van Zandt, an artist who has not collected for what he deserved, but who has given us (and we hope Travis Meadows does for a long time) pearls of absolute artistic and narrative value. Two poets so similar and so true. As I said at the beginning, an incredible story, made of falls and ascents, without ever giving up, narrated with a sincerity and a disarming ability. Travis Meadows and his music are light years away from the shimmering glossy Nashville, but if you’re looking for sentiment, soul and humanity and value the quality of the songs, he’s the artist you’ve been looking for. You will not regret having discovered it and it will seem strange not to have done it before.

Good listening,

Trex Willer by http://www.ticinonotizie.it

(you can find original italian article at this link: https://www.ticinonotizie.it/travis-meadows-first-cigarette-2017-by-trex-roads/ )

Pubblicato da Trex

Sono un blogger e scrittore appassionato di musica indipendente americana. Scrivo gialli polizieschi e ho inventato il personaggio del detective texano Cody Myers.

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