Song Review: Travis Denning, “David Ashley Parker From Powder Springs”

Wow, this genre is really running out of decent song ideas, huh?

Travis Denning is a Georgia native who kicked around Nashville for several years before inking a deal with UMG Nashville in 2017. Like Abby Anderson, it took nearly a year for Denning’s label to release his official debut single, and then took another three months before “David Ashley Parker From Powder Springs” made enough noise on the charts to catch my attention. It’s yet another song in a long line of nostalgia-themed tunes that have dropped this year, but this one feels like a unintentional parody, as Denning delivers what feels like a genuinely earnest ode to…a freaking fake ID. It’s not interesting, it’s not fun, and it’s not a smart choice for a debut single.

The production here feels is a generic, run-of-the-mill mix driven primarily by electric guitars. It opens innocuously enough, leaning on an acoustic guitar and a spacious percussion line that brings to mind some of Dierks Bentley’s recent work, but these elements disappear by the first chorus, replaced by the same old in-your-face drum set and electric axes. It’s got a decent amount of energy, and it sets a nice reflective mood without the underlying bittersweetness that often underscores these tracks, but there’s nothing in the mix that really makes the track stand out. As a result, I just can’t shake the feeling that I’ve heard this song a hundred times before, even with the novel lyrics. It blends in way too well with the rest of the songs on the radio, which is the last thing you want when you’re trying to establish yourself as an artist.

Vocally, Denning sounds like a blend of Luke Combs and Rodney Atkins, and if there’s one thing that stands out about his delivery, it’s his surprising amount of charisma. The track really doesn’t test his range or flow all that much, but it’s the emotion and earnestness that really struck me: The dude sings about a small piece of plastic with the same sort of feeling that Luke Bryan saves for a lost summer fling and Blake Shelton reserves for his hometown. I can’t get over just how serious and believable Denning feels on this track, which winds up biting him in the rear when the listener realizes exactly what he’s talking about. The listener’s reaction is less “Ah, those were the days” and more “You feel that strongly about a fake ID? Seriously?” Denning demonstrates enough chops to make me think he might have a future in this league, but he needs to find stronger material covering more interesting topics first.

In my recent Jason Aldean review, I noted that just because a topic wasn’t novel, it didn’t mean it was a bad song. “David Ashley Parker From Powder Springs” is the flip side of this coin: Just because a topic is novel doesn’t necessarily make the song any good. I’ve heard lot of songs about inanimate objects over the years (cars, cups, chairs, toothbrushes, etc.), but this is the first one I’d heard devoted to a fake ID and the life it let the narrator lead. Most songs centered around a simple object use it as a touchstone for the memories of the places it took them, but the images are far too vague and generic for the listener to really connect with them. There’s a fair bit of detail here, but it’s misplaced: We’re given every little bit of information from the ID itself, but little about the people and places the ID takes him. (Also, that “every time I shot, I scored” line felt a little slimy.) The writing isn’t personal enough to be memorable, and it’s sung too seriously to be silly-fun à la “Red Solo Cup,” so we’re left with a track that isn’t much of anything, least of all memorable.

Overall, “David Ashley Parker From Powder Springs” is a signal that the nostalgia trend in country music has officially jumped the shark. The writing felt weak, the production felt meh, and all of Travis Denning’s talents are basically wasted. It’s a poor single choice, much less a debut single choice, and it harms Denning’s career chances more than it helps them.

Rating: 5/10. Pass.