Gary Austin’s The Traveler
By Gerry Gomez
There’s a purity and honesty in Gary Austin’s songs. A longtime writer, Gary Austin is the founder of Los Angeles’ famed Groundling theatre who just recently put years of living, writing, and storytelling to music with his long overdue, debut release, Gary Austin The Traveler.
A child of West Texas, Austin has fulfilled his life-long dream of becoming a singing cowboy with his release produced by long time friend and noted musician, Matt Cartsonis (John McEuen, Van Dyke Parks, Warren Zevon). In the process, he documents with heart-felt emotion and ascorbic comic wit, some of the moments of his life over the thoroughly enjoyable album featuring well crafted songs and unfettered vocals.
As an elder statesman in the roots music genre, it is perhaps Austin’s comedic outlook on life that has kept him energized and young over the years. It certainly propels his songs on the album, “No Left Turn,” which hilariously recounts the propensity of his 1969 Ford truck to only make right hand turns, and “Freeway Chicken,” a one-time local radio hit some years ago about one accident that deposited chickens all over the freeway, this time captured live in all its crowd participation glory.
But as comedic actors are often noted for, there’s a deep, emotional side as well documented on the album touchingly on the songs “How Old Are You Now” and “Snowdog.”
“How old are you now? What grade are you in? How tall are you getting to be? Do you kiss the boys and smile at the men? Do you tell your friends about me,” sings Austin in the tear jerking song about his daughter that he effectively missed growing up. Whereas, “Snowdog,” is a lovely ode to man’s best friend, in this case his snowdog that chose Austin because he liked the way he smelled.
Austin’s songs harken the best of the classic storytellers such as Kris Kristofferson, John Prine, Townes Van Zandt and Rodney Crowell and The Travler leaves listeners feeling as though they have just enjoyed a great book or heard some healing motivational speaker, assuring that everything is gonna be OK because he’s given you a look into his life.