It doesn’t take long to realize just how perfect I’m Still Here is for the time and place in which we live. The second track on Travis Linville’s latest record captures the sentiments of a world that is dropping its masks and pursuing some sense of normalcy: “Take all the rock and roll in the world and pawn it,” he sings on “Feeling We Used to Know,” “If we could go back to that feelin’ we used to know.”
It’s a declaration of near-revelatory truth, but for longtime fans, these words aren’t necessarily new; written nearly two decades ago by Jamie Kelley, Mike McClure put his own spin on the song on his 2008 record with The Burtschi Brothers, Linville’s former band. But on I’m Still Here, Linville makes it his own as he picks up the electric guitar and gives it new life.
That’s not the only track fans of the Oklahoma guitar slinger might recognize. “See You Around” has been a favorite at live shows for years, and now in 2021 it gets an amazing full-band treatment. Digging a little further back in history, Linville — with the help of Hayes Carll — covers Willie Nelson’s impeccable 1971 tune, “Yesterday’s Wine.” With an obvious respect for the original, the voices of Carll and Linville, along with guests John Fullbright and Jacob Tovar, give it a fresh makeover. Nelson’s lyrics take on a whole new meaning for a world that wants to remember what life was like before the pandemic.
“We’re yesterday’s wine. Aging with time, like yesterday’s wine.”
Throughout I’m Still Here, Linville makes his craft sound easy, as he has done for years; he wastes no time with over-instrumentation or unnecessary words. With Linville — someone Carll once called “criminally underrated” — there are no distractions as he shares only and exactly what is needed to connect with the listener. This is perhaps most beautifully captured on the title track, a co-write with Natalie Hemby. “I’m still here, hoping for the best, never really left you, honey,” Linville declares. “I’m still here, always looking up, still holding strong. There were times I was invisible, but I never really let you go. I’m still here, been here all along.”
They are words that ring beautifully true today, and words, like much of Linville’s work, that will continue to bring life to listeners for years to come.