Travis Denning has written songs for Jason Aldean, Justin Moore and Michael Ray. He had a break-out hit of his own in 2019 with the terrific ‘David Ashley Parker from Powder Springs’. His follow up song, ‘After a Few’ was a record breaking number one Country hit, taking 65 weeks to climb to the top of the charts. EPs ‘Beer’s Better Cold’ and ‘ Dirt Road Down’ followed, cementing Denning’s guitar-fuelled ability to rock with the best of them as this ‘baby-faced assassin’ builds what should be a healthy and long career.
New EP, ‘Might As Well Be Me’ takes what Denning has been doing so well so far and adds in a little light & shade and a little nuance to his already strong rock credentials meaning this emerging artist is now ready for the spotlight with a strong set of skills and tools at his disposal.
EP opener, ‘Red Round Here’ is ‘classic Denning’. A big, bombastic anthem about staying true to your southern roots. With the line, ‘It might as well be me,’ this song provides the title of the EP as Denning sings about tractors, dogs, porches, county lines, Hank Williams and fishing amongst other traditional southern tropes. There might also be a cheeky duality to the song if by mentioning the word ‘red’ Denning also means Republican, too, on a song that could well go on to be the concert opener in this next phase of his career.
Where the EP brings in a little nuance is on tracks like ‘Buy a Girl a Drink’ and ‘River Named Mississippi’. There are definite themes of growth, change and evolution spread across the songs on this EP, which is only natural for Denning to explore as he grows older and experiences all the ups and downs that life has to offer. ‘Buy a Girl a Drink’ gives me serious ‘Buy Dirt’ (Jordan Davis) or ‘Drunk Girl’ (Chris Janson) vibes. It’s a tasteful, restrained song that tracks a relationship from the first drink to rocking chairs on the porch in old age. It’s a clever, meaningful and evocative song that might well be his next number one hit should it go to radio. The gruff vocals and melodic guitars are still there, just tempered a little, which gives the song room to breathe.
Similarly, ‘River Name Mississippi’, which is driven by classic John Waite ‘Missing You’ style chugging guitars, is more than just an in-your-face rocker or sweet love song ballad. This mid-tempo love song is full of nuance as Denning declares an undying love whilst referencing the river, cowboys in Texas and whiskey in Tennessee. Yes, the touchstones are familiar but Denning handles them in a way that feels fresh and authentic.
If authenticity is your thing check out ‘If You Need Anything Down Here’ but I’d make sure there are a few tissues around the first time you do. It’s a conversation between Denning and an old friend who has died. The singer offers to check on his parents, his ex-girlfriend and implores the friend to send a sign, in the form of a couple of shooting stars or maybe hook him up with a bass at the fishing hole! It’s equal parts heartbreaking and heartwarming and walks that fine line between meaning and melody with some aplomb.
The EP is rounded out by two further songs. ‘She’s On It’ is built around the multiple meanings of the title as a guy sits alone in a bar, regretting letting the love of his life go. No matter what he tries, to get her off his mind, ‘she’s on it.’ It’s another big, infectious song with more relatable lyrics to people’s real life experiences underpinned by Denning’s classic guitar playing. ‘Don’t Give a Truck’, meanwhile, another song that echoes the themes of growth and change, is a song with large moments and interesting, lyrics full of wit and wisdom. ‘Don’t give a truck to a small town kid…..’ Denning sings, ‘….because he’s going to end up making ‘don’t tell’ stories in the back of it.’
‘Might As Well Be Me’ is easily Travis Denning’s most interesting and nuanced release to date. There’s a familiarity in songs like ‘Red Round Here’ and a growth in others like ‘Buy a Girl a Drink’. The guy really does have a knack for a chorus and can play the hell out of his guitar as good as anyone around in Country music (maybe with the notable exception of John Osborne, but that would be a duel we’d pay to see!) There are no weak points or filler on this EP which begs the question, why not trust the guy with a full album release? It’s time. Time to unleash Denning on the wider world as a full album artist and begin to work up his career into something of meaning now that he has developed all the tools he needs to succeed in what is a very crowded industry. Denning is ready – this EP proves it.
Tracklist: 1. Red Round Here 2. River Named Mississippi 3. Buy a Girl a Drink 4. Don’t Give a Truck 5. She’s On It 6. If You Need Anything Down Here Record Label: Snakefarm (UK) UMG Nashville (USA) Release Date: 5th August Buy ‘Might As Well Be Me’ now