Travis Bowlin – Secundus
12 tracks / 43:01
Travis Bowlin is a singer, songwriter, and guitarist who grew up in the Midwest and he kicked off his career by singing in the honorable Cincinnati Boy Choir and performing the national anthem at Reds’ games. He picked up the guitar at the age of 15, and after high school started booking his own shows around the tri-state area of Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. Bowlin signed his first independent record deal in 2012, which led to his move to Nashville and adopting a grueling touring schedule, playing hundreds of gigs per year.
This summer Travis released a new album, Secundus, which is appropriate as this is his sophomore effort. It contains a dozen original songs that were written by the Bowlin and some of his bandmates, and it was recorded by Nathan Smith at Mainframe Studios Nashville, Tennessee. Joining Travis in the studio were Brian Mooney on bass, Daryl Johnson on drums, Kiran Gupta on the keys and organ, and Herb Aaron on harmonica, with Courtney Holder and Rikki Randall providing the backing vocals. This disc clocks in at a bit over 43 minutes, so none of the songs are terribly long, which makes them more radio-friendly.
This is a collection of blues rock tunes, and the listener will find that there is plenty of variety within this genre as Bowlin works the sounds of the past six decades into the mix. The disc kicks off with “Strange Vibes” which has a laid-back and funky Creedence Clearwater mojo. Right from the start it is obvious that Travis has a powerful and dynamic voice as well as a smooth touch on the electric guitar. He has a strong band backing him up too, and they lay down a heavy backline for “In the Worst Way.” This group shows a lot of maturity, and instead of trying to melt the listeners’ faces off they work together to focus more on creating melodies and transmitting emotions. That being said, they can rock out when necessary, such as with the driving roadhouse song, “Dancin’ with the Devil,” which has a steadily building tension throughout.
The band also brings on the melancholy with “All Over Again,” a slow blues rocker in which Travis channels the late blues guitar hero, Gary Moore, with an amazingly melodic lead guitar. There is also a neat modern interpretation of classic blues sounds with “Vicksburg Blues” which features an acoustic intro with some nice harp from Herb Aaron before it morphs into a slow tempo Chicago rocker. There is also one very likable tune that comes out of left field, as it brings together so many different elements. “Casuarina Sand” is the tale of a terribly dysfunctional relationship that is set to a 12-bar riff with jazz piano and funk influences, and the whole thing cuts off abruptly just short of three minutes leaving the listener to wonder just what could have been…
Even though this disc comes in at 43 minutes it feels like it ends too soon as it closes up with “I Can Let Go” with its lovely acoustic guitar and piano accompaniment, the heavy beat from Mooney and Johnson on “Record Shop,” and the standout track on the album, “Slow Cooker Man.” The latter allows Bowlin to cut loose on his guitar and wah pedal and push his voice to the limit. This grind showcases his best solo work on the album and Aaron does a fine job of working his harmonica into the mix. What a cool way to finish the set!
Secundusis a solid effort from Travis Bowlin, and fans of blues rock with killer vocals should think about picking up a copy of this for their listening pleasure. If you want to catch his live show, keep an eye on Bowlin’s website for other upcoming shows, and you know there will be a bunch because this guy gets around. Also, there is a link there to Bowlin Box Instruments, and maybe you will be inspired to pick up one of Travis’ cool cigar box guitar creations!