Missoula musician Travis Yost says the quirky title of his first solo album, Love Is a Dog from Nebraska, is inspired partly by poet Charles Bukowski and in part by his love of dogs. Relationships, lost souls, loneliness, trucks and cars, nose to the grindstone – he’s all over the place thematically on eight original tunes.
Yost is a multi-instrumentalist who’s drummed for Tom Catmull for years and helped found Stellarondo. He has gobs of instruments and a mobile studio, recording and producing many bands, and he did everything on this CD. He plays guitar, bass, drums, pedal steel, and keys/synth. He’s obsessed with guitar effects too, and he uses them to sound like a lot of people, no mean feat.
Yost’s stories come to life with a combination of fine mid-baritone singing and technical prowess. On “A Dog,” we hear a Springsteen-esque wall of guitars and drums before the piece quiets to a spare acoustic sound. Yost sings softly, Neil Young-like, only to scream out periodically for dramatic tension. The lyrics tumble out with a stream-of-consciousness flair. “A dog behind the wheel, mess-kit electrolyte,” he intones.
Surfer-guitar sounds, sustained and reverb-y, drive the languid “After I’m Gone.” Yost’s sweet, high warble shows he can swoop easily into a pretty falsetto, giving an emotional lift to his melodies.
“Somebody Special” finds him channeling his inner Bob Seger, with the added touch of piano arpeggio and bell sounds (yep).
“All the Sin” follows a fallen angel who chooses to live among earthly sinners, absorbing their worries as any angel would. She wades through humanity and breaks hearts along the way; it’s an old tale retold as a country waltz with pedal steel. I like it.
“Broken Airy Heart” throbs with an acoustic guitar bestride a fuzzed-up Hofner (Beatle Bass) guitar. “Your life is on the line,” Yost sings, “you tell me that I’m dying working overtime.” This guy writes pretty interesting stuff, and knows how to use the gizmos to give it flair.
– Mariss McTucker