The soulful Americana of Tim Flannery’s tenth CD, Travelin’ Shoes, sings openly and warmly of all that’s loved and carried along the road. In concise original songs with back-porch eloquence, Flannery’s voice is soulful solo and sweet in harmony, born of deep roots in Kentucky and recent seasons in San Francisco. It’s an organically grown band record, with long-time collaborators that include Lucinda Williams’ guitarist Doug Pettibone, ace producer and multi-instrumentalist Jeff Berkley, and several of the best vocalists and players in the San Diego roots music community. Together they weave elegant songs of deep spirit; authentic tales of thirty years of roadwork, mixing high adventure with worn-out solitude, humor with humility, a longing for home with the love of the road as home itself. It’s easy to see why Flannery’s music has previously inspired Jackson Browne, Jimmy Buffett, Bruce Hornsby, Garth Brooks and others to collaborate and celebrate that musical road with him.
Travelin’ Shoes is framed by the title track, leading off the album with a bluegrass telling of that raw, real, thrilling mix of the road’s seductive pleasure and danger. “All the Things We Carry” centers the album in a quieter way, singing out the poignancy and beauty of everything we all carry along the road: not just pocket stones and other mementos, but love and connection held fast across the miles, the accountability and responsibility that come with them. “Rhythms and rhymes/And moments in time…” The song’s inspired by a book about all that Vietnam soldiers carried with them along their own brutal road. It’s a counterpoint to the Cajun party that precedes it, “Don’t Come Home On Account Of Me,” with the late night whiskey flowing free alongside laughter, passion and nights lived to the hilt. The fearless courage and strength required for the road are in a hard-edged cover of “Scare Easy,” written by Tom Petty in the Mudcrutch context. The poetic wonder of the wider world in spirit is gracefully rendered in the original ballad of “Eyes Wide Open.” And nothing sums up the effect of the road better than “a little damage and a little grace,” a line from Flannery’s beautiful cover of Eliza Gilkyson’s “Think About You.” In sum, Travelin’ Shoes is a musical photograph of a 51-year-old man who always lives his songs and his games all the way to the beloved edge.
This is the fourth CD on which Flannery has worked with Jeff Berkley as producer, who is gaining deserved reputation for sonic excellence that never sacrifices the pure feel of a live band, much in the manner of T-Bone Burnett. (Perhaps not coincidental, since Travelin’ Shoes was mastered by Gavin Lurssen, who has mastered T-Bone’s recent releases as well as Flannery’s.) Berkley and Pettibone contribute masterful work on guitar and other instruments, as does bluegrass heavyweight Dennis Caplinger, accordion player Sharon Whyte and many others, including the beautiful piano melodies of AJ DeGrasse, and Dean Smith laying down the foundation on bass. The sweet harmonies are the subtle and beautiful work of four of San Diego’s finest: Barbara Nesbitt, Randi Driscoll, Eve Selis, and Calman Hart, all of whom are leaders in their own right elsewhere. Their contributions are always in service to those concise songs—built on melodies that echo in your head for days. The songs too are things we carry inside, part of the grace and the damage and tales yet to be lived and told along tomorrow’s fresh road. You can find Flannery there every day, with his guitar and with his songs, and if you look, you can find him on the fields of major league baseball as well. And yes, Reverend Jesse Jackson really did pray for him. But those are other stories for another day along the road, another friendly pair of Travelin’ Shoes.
Promotion, booking, management: Tim Flannery, (760)436-0774, email@example.com
Retail purchase: CD Baby, www.cdbaby.com
Additional artist information: www.timflannery.com
FCC warning: Track 13 (hidden track