"I'm Still Here" is singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Travis Linville's follow-up to 2017's "Up Ahead." Like that one, it's full of well-crafted songs. Although Linville can play any number of instruments ranging from guitars, lap steel, pedal steel, mandolin, Dobro and piano, the clear emphasis and most impressive element is his songwriting. Long recognized as a valued sideman for Hayes Carll, John Moreland and Parke Millsap, to name a few, Linville is no newcomer to solo work as this marks his 11th solo outing.
Although Linville is an Okie as is his producer, JD McPherson, this was cut in Nashville with Jason Smay on drums, Dominic Davis on bass and Raynier Jacildo on keys. Linville did manage to include his closer circle of friends though inviting Carll, as well as fellow Okies John Fullbright and Jacob Tovar, for a cover of Willie Nelson's standard, "Yesterday's Wine."
What separates this from previous efforts is Linville's collaboration with other writers, as encouraged by McPherson. The two wrote "Diamonds and Dust," the title track was written with Highwoman Natalie Hemby, and the single "Feeling We Used to Know" with former bandmate Jamie Kelly. Linville penned the others, exhibiting his innate gift for melody and hummable fare with "Blue Sky Bound," "See You Around" and the hand clapped "Running Back" as three that immediately stand out. Hemby took the title track into a pop direction, making Linville feel that it might be one the best he's ever written. "Feeling We Used to Know' is stocked with relatable verses – "Take all the rock and roll in the world and pawn it/if we could go back to that feeling we used to know."
"Rain" carries a different timbre. It began with Roy Orbison as the influence, but ending up as an indie rocker with some haunting chords. "I Saw You" is even more different, echoing strains of Sgt. Pepper's Beatles with its several voices and Tulsa-like Leon Russell piano. The organ driven "Lights Across the Water" is a soulful one in the vein of Petty and Benmont Tench. The closer "Diamonds and Dust" is in a similar vein, emerging as a gorgeous reaffirming love song that's so comforting you'd swear you heard it before somewhere. Therein lies Linville's magic.