TRAVELER’S DAWN – Traveler’s Dawn
I have to give Dave Heibl, the very photogenic creative force behind Traveler’s Dawn, credit. In the interest of selling a few more CDs, he could have put his picture on the cover of his debut instead of on the back. Even though I am categorically opposed to artists blatantly exploiting their looks (hello, Pete Yorn), a photo would have been better than the rather nondescript cover of well, dawn, I guess. Equally unremarkable is the name “Traveler’s Dawn,” the band-name equivalent of one of those generic Steven Seagal movie titles that you end up renting twice because you don’t remember that you’ve already seen it. There is something to be said for judging a book by its cover. This self-titled CD, much like later releases by Collective Soul or the Goo Goo Dolls, is always listenable without ever being quite memorable.
While that’s true for most of the record, Heibl seems to believe in saving the best for last; the trio of songs that close the record are his best. Final track “Blossom” trades in the electric guitar that dominates most songs for an acoustic one to fondly remember a lover who had to leave to follow her dreams. With hooks every bit as contagious as the Goo Goo Dolls’ “Slide” (and the intro of which it recalls) the head-bobbing “Something About a Girl” channels the Dolls at their most insistently charming. It’s also the most developed song, changing perspectives as it chronicles the things we do for love. Jo Gabriel’s surprising yet stately Hammond organ on “No Cause Forgotten” ignores the Al Kooper school of smooth in favor of almost church-like chords which play a game of tug-o-war with Josh Center’s trotting drum part, holding the song back from ever breaking into a run. Even as it reflects on the way that music can save and soothe, it admits “There are no original songs left to sing.”
That sentiment seems to reflect the theme of the other two-thirds of the CD, which consequently doesn’t fare quite as well. At its lowest point it devolves into clichéd lines such as “Good from far is far from good / Or at least that’s what they say” (one of the clunkers from “Arm’s Length”) and rather mundane guitar riffs on several songs. Still, like those post-Nirvana rock/pop bands, even when Traveler’s Dawn is at their worst, it’s still hard to actively dislike them. And like those Seagal movies, I’ll probably pull this disc out again in a few months, unable to remember the plot.