Travis James Humphrey
Dirty Beautiful World
Pickers Pride Records
Click to hear: “Back End of the Rainbow“
People, we need to stop taking Travis James Humphrey for granted.
It’s easy to under-appreciate the guy. Humphrey’s got regular gigs almost every night of the week at places like Gritty’s, RiRa, The Dogfish, and Champions Sports Bar in Biddeford, where he holds down Mondays. There’s no cover charge. Here’s just there, strummin’ and drawlin’ in the corner of the dining area, half-audible through the happy hour clatter and chatter.
But if you listen closely for a minute or two, or if you take his new album home and give it a spin, you’ll come to the same realization I did: Holy shit, this guy is good!
Hipsters beware: this is mainstream country; there’s nothin’ “alt-” about it. Recorded in Nashville by ace session man Johnny Hiland — a blind Wunderkind who, like Humphrey, grew up in rural Maine — these songs would sound right at home on commercial country radio. Hiland produced Dirty Beautiful World and played every instrument but the drums. The production is clean and clear. The songs sound as good as anything on WPOR.
Humphrey’s strong voice wears the standard country twang with ease and confidence. He wrote nine of the 10 songs on World — the exception being a workable cover of the Dick Curless classic “Tombstone Every Mile.” His originals are earnest and endearing, with a few winks ’n’ nudges tossed in from the Jimmy Buffett playbook. The pop country of songs like “New Day” and the title track rubs shoulders with grittier honky-tonk numbers like “Noble Truth #2” and “Back End of the Rainbow.”
“At the back end of the rainbow, there’s pot but there ain’t much gold,” Humphrey quips. “All the people are nice and the only time you see ice is floatin’ in your mojito.”
Stop rolling your eyes and raise a salt-rimmed glass to Humphrey next time you see him playing your local pub. He’s one of the hardest-working musicians in town, and as Dirty Beautiful World proves, all that work has paid off.
— Chris Busby
See travisjameshumphrey.com for his full schedule of gigs and more.