Travis Shallow will sing and play guitar for his solo CD release party at The Calico Room on Friday, March 14th, accompanied by his friend and keyboard artist Jason Woolwine. Shallow alone is a powerful performer, as he belts out soulful, original compositions about the human condition. Add Woolwine on piano and organ, and it sounds like a full band.
This is Shallow’s first solo record. He last released music on “Battered Wooden Body (Goodbye, Just Hold On, Amen)” by his and Woolwine’s band, A Few Good Liars, which also includes members Ron Etheridge, Richard Welsh, Zach Brindisi, and Andrew Ratcliffe. “Some musicians wait until their fourth or fifth CD to go solo,” Shallow said, “but my time is now.”
On the album, Shallow sings “One Day, Let’s Go Dancing” and his favorite, “Strawberry Jam”—the latter about his grandmother canning strawberries. (“Tell me why you smile when you talk about how free she was…”).
He and Woolwine go back to 2008, when they played in a six-piece band, The Woolwine Complex. Their friendship has survived long treks to play festivals, such as Sparta’s Fullyfest, and many nights simply hanging out. Both play solo gigs and with other bands as well, but the two together—“locked in,” as they say—is a beautiful thing, a marriage between keyboard and guitar.
“Our duo works because Jason is so good,” Shallow said. “He plays bass with his left hand and melody with the right. If you close your eyes, it sounds like more than two people. Some venues expect drums, which equal a full band. In our case, an exception is often made because we have such a full sound. Jason is so amazing that he could play keyboard on any tour bus in the country with any band, hand-in-hand. We may have our differences before a gig, but when the music is right, all is forgiven.”
As a child, Woolwine trained as a classical pianist. High-school peers lured him to switch to guitar and the rock ‘n’ roll scene. As a young adult, he saw bands needed a keyboard specialist. Now a fan of Dr. John, Woolwine has shifted his style to a New Orleans ragtime sound—“a different way of thinking with my hands,” he says. Proficient at playing double stack with piano and organ, Woolwine admires celebrity organists Jimmy Smith, Melvin Seals, and Billy Preston.
As well, Shallow pays attention to the human emotions conveyed by his contemporaries, especially singer/songwriter Ray LaMontagne (“Trouble”). Shallow’s own compositions are steeped in personal storytelling and played in a folk-rock/Americana style. He’s taken a few music classes but remains mainly self-taugh. He also swears by learning from the Internet.
Shallow’s fans are steadfast, and two couples, one from New Hampshire and the other from Florida, plan their vacations in part around the time Shallow plays at the Oceanic Pier in the summer (this will be summer #12.). He recently played at the new Bourgie Nights and is grateful to owner Billy Mellon who wholeheartedly supports Wilmington’s local musicians.
“It’s important to engage the audience with humor and to let them know they are a big part of the performance,” Shallow says. “I try to keep the mindset of playing my music with all I’ve got—like it’s my last gig—whether there’s one person in the room or 100.”
For more information about Shallow’s upcoming gig, go to reverbnation.com/travisshallow or call The Calico Room, 107 S. Front Street at 762-2091.
Travis Shallow and Jason Woolwine
March 14th, 9 p.m.
The Calico Room, 107 S Front St.