With its intimate interior, the Basement is one of those venues where an artist can build a true connection with the room. Featuring an accoustic, mostly solo set, Oklahoma folkster Travis Linville capitalized on the cozy setting to let his singing and guitar picking skills shine, while keeping the room on its toes with his between-the-songs wry humor.
Linville’s knack for storytelling was on display and in prime form. Whether touching on the melancholy in “Two Times the Fool,” or taking us on an introspective journey with “Up Ahead,” Linville showcased his lyrical emotional depth. Taking a minimalistic musical approach on this tour, Linville featured his instumental prowess, whether playfully fingerpicking his guitar, extending the emotional range of his dobro, or creating a mournful wail on harmonica.
While I was already familiar with Linville’s musical tales, it was his asides that gave us a true glimpse of the sardonic soul behind the artist. Whether sharing a song’s backstory or transitioning between instruments, Linville applied a quick wit that kept the audience hanging on every word–often laughing and sometimes just trying to keep up. Attempting to reconstruct the humor without his genuineness and delivery would rob his work of its originality, but it was clear that he observes the world through a unique lens.
Nearing the end of the show, Linville welcomed the night’s opener, John Calvin Abney, back to the stage. Sharing the spotlight, they showed the Nashville crowd how a couple of boys from Oklahoma can pick and play on a Doc Watson-esque version of “Sitting on Top of the World.” Ending the show with a hint of hopeful optimism added yet another layer of complexity.
Whether making toes tap or painting a sad picture, Linville filled every inch of the Basement with his folk-driven Americana. It was on that stage that we witnessed the confluence of his musical soul and his humorous storytelling–and couldn’t get enough of either one.