Dead Leaves is the new project by singer/songwriter Travis Egnor. Listening to this self-titled offering, you’ll quickly notice that flavors of Neil Young, Tom Petty, and Bob Dylan are immediately obvious. Upon closer inspection, touches of Elvis Costello, The Allman Brothers, and The Faces become more apparent. While Travis makes no excuses about digging into music from the past for inspiration, Dead Leaves offer much more. From the Merle Travis style finger picked guitar on “The Sweetest Song” to the pedal steel guitar making its way through most of the record, it’s obvious that Travis has not separated himself too far from the country records that resided in his father’s old console record player.
Originally from the hills of West Virginia, it was difficult to escape the music of Appalachia, though Travis tried his best as a teenager to do just that. However, after moving to Nashville in 2004, Old Time and Bluegrass eventually made its way into his repertoire. Travis spent 7 years in Nashville working at world famous Gruhn Guitars, where he met and worked with numerous artists, including spending three days at Ben Folds’ studio with Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top and Grammy-award winning artist Jamey Johnson.
While in Nashville, Travis recorded the six-song solo EP Pretty Bird with musicians Viktor Krauss (Lyle Lovett), Fats Kaplin (Elvis Costello, Pure Prairie League), Paul Burch, and Wes Langlois (David Mayfield Parade, Michelle Shocked). Shortly after the completion of Pretty Bird, Travis and bassist David Kirkpatrick formed the band Travis Egnor & the Mighty Oaks and played many regional shows and gained a good-sized Nashville following.
Dead Leaves is a departure from the folk-laced sounds of Pretty Bird. Going back to Rock & Roll was a must and, while the record is steeped in vintage vinyl, it is not simply another throwback offering. The guitar work between Travis and guitarist Wes Langlois on songs such as “Whiskey” and “If You Don’t Say No” remind listeners of a time when a “jam” was truly appreciated and evokes a time when songs over four minutes in length weren’t just reserved for long-playing records. David Kirkpatrick’s solid bass lines tend to move around with chord changes and a flow reminiscent to those of Berry Oakley’s on The Allman Brothers’ Live at the Fillmore West. Joe Giotta’s drums, while sometimes subtle, add to the intensity of the songs in a way that make it impossible to tune out this recording. This is a listening record, not background music.
In October 2011, Travis, David, Wes, and Joe recorded at Prime Recording in Nashville, Tennessee, over two days. Setting up to record live in the studio’s main room was, as Travis puts it, “The only way” and said “We had a few rehearsals and quickly realized we needed to be in the same room. We had to capture exactly what we were feeling. It was too magical to mess with.” Once the main tracks were finished, very few overdubs were added and Annie Neeley was brought in to add some harmony vocals.
In January 2012, Travis headed out on a journey with the Dead Leaves songs by traveling to, and living in, a new city every three months. “This is an opportunity for me to make relationships, both personal and musical, in many different cities across the country.” His first stop in Omaha, Nebraska, resulted in some fantastic press in local papers, blogs and scene-based websites. His current stay in Baltimore, MD has only just begun but has already resulted in several exciting musical pairings.