Always eager to connect with fellow Virginians, I was enthusiastic to review 29-year old Justin Trawick’s new album, You & I. He is not only a singer-songwriter, which the new album showcases; he also plays shows with the “Justin Trawick Group”. This record, however, is a solo project designed to feature Trawick’s abilities as a guitar player and lyricist.
The album was recorded live, in front of a small audience in Falls Church, Virginia. This sort of arrangement is uncommon for upcoming artists, but Trawick uses it as an appropriate frame to fit the function of You & I—that is, an intimate and personal exploration of relationships with friends, family, the opposite sex, and himself. Trawick does not use his audience to provide disclaimers or elaborate explanations. Rather, he gives minimal introductions to each song and allows the music to speak for itself. “You cheated on me anyway / I never thought this could happen / but I see I’m wrong / Now I must, oh I must, I must be strong and move on” he sighs on “To New Hampshire.” Trawick avoids lofty metaphors and complex guitar arrangements, which suit the heart of the album. Trawick’s direct and honest lyrics speak to an encompassing message: This Is Life As It Happens And Here’s How I Feel About It. The record’s no-nonsense tone is refreshing and will serve Trawick well in further music endeavors.
There is, however, a sort of handicap in the album. Aside from “Brick By Brick” and “The Back Of My Mind”, which feature rapper Flex Mathews, Trawick rarely diverts from the popular, yet unoriginal, style of singer-songwriter-guitar player. These tracks do not seem out of place in the mellow, folky album. Rather, they act as vehicles to showcase the universal power of music to connect a musician to his audience, no matter the genre. Moreover, the hip-hop inspired songs provide a nice break from the man-and-his-acoustic guitar vibe of the rest of the record.
This is not to say that Trawick has no chops as a solo performer. “Photographs” is perhaps the strongest track. Why? With the assistance of close friend Josh Himmelsbach on mandolin, the song is an upbeat and lovable nod to Southern folk music and brings to mind Old Crow Medicine Show and The Avett Brothers. I would like to see Trawick continue playing with this genre to give him a unique angle to the singer-songwriter persona. It also compliments his Virginian roots that can’t be ignored, what with his slight drawl (especially notable in “Snow Angels”) and devotion to performing in his home state. Trawick might consider moving away from the style of Tallest Man on Earth and more towards that of The Devil Makes Three. Some banjo in his next album would be a step in the right direction. Don’t throw Trawick out, however. You & I is a perfect fit for those who find John Mayer too mainstream, Ryan Adams too slow, and Bon Iver too weird.
– Tori Kerr
Listen to Justin Trawick’s “Photographs” and don’t forget to purchase You & I on iTunes