Album Review: Travis Meadows - “First Cigarette”

One of the best songwriters in all of Nashville proves he’s one of the best artists from the city on this, his first nationally released album.

It’s been said that the best songs come from life and experience and in the case of Travis Meadows, that’s exactly what you get after 52 years of a life lived. The man who has written hits for Jake Owen, Eric Church and Dierks Bentley (among others) has a story that really should be a movie some day. Surviving death at every turn of his life, it’s no wonder Meadows turned to addiction and God to mask the pain. While God is still on his side, Travis has come out of it the other side and with First Cigarette, the artist who should’ve been a star 30 years ago finally gets his chance. Working with longtime friend Jeremy Spillman in the producer’s chair (and Jay Joyce serving as executive producer), this is the record Travis has always wanted to make, it seems. While his previous efforts were fantastic DYI efforts which proved how much one can do with little, if they know how to use the tools, First Cigarette is different. Now through the forest of the cathartic dark period that informed Killin’ Uncle Buzzy, Meadows has a slightly brighter outlook on life here.

“Better Boat” finds a man who is cherishing the fact that he’s made it to this point in his life and has learned that our emotional baggage is best left behind in the past. “Pray For Jungleland” describes a young love and the power it has on us, often one of a human’s first addictions. Addiction comes in many forms and the spirit of the human condition does too, songs like “Sideways” — the album’s opener — discusses that the more you hold on to your personal shit, bitterness, and hide it, “Bitter roads turn to highways…you push it out it comes out sideways.” Bitterness may be masked anger but it’s really fear, he says. It is those addictions that mask fear and everything described on Sideways come alive on the title track and “Hungry. “Underdogs” is as close to the CCM style of songs Meadows once exclusively wrote (20 hits by the time he was 24) but it’s also as hopeful song, a song about hardscrabble folks, the salt of the earth types who survive and persevere no matter what obstacle is put in their way. Like Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen, Meadows is a poetic soul, the kind of songwriter who can bring vivid imagery to the forefront on songs like “Pontiac,” “Guy Like Me” and “McDowell Road.”

Quite simply, Travis Meadows is a superstar singer/songwriter. With a voice that is soaked in gravelly grit, he shines on First Cigarette and thanks to his brutally honest music, he’s ready to shine in the spotlight with a songbook of well-earned tales. Do not miss this record.