New To Us – Trevor Sensor

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Trevor Sensor is a 22 year old songwriter and solo artist.

The majority of Trevor’s debut EP was written, and recorded, on a borrowed acoustic guitar, and perhaps it’s unsurprising that the record could loosely be categorised as folk. Discussing the inspiration behind the record, Trevor has been quick to talk up his background in literature, an English major, he cites the likes of Marcel Proust and Dave Eggers as influences on his lyricism. Musically he goes from upbeat, rapid acoustic-strums, to more contemplative picking and expansive piano-ballads.

Trevor is from the city of Sterling in Illinois. The capital of Whiteside County in North-West Illinois, Sterling was unpromisingly nicknamed, “the hardware capital of the world”, due to it’s close links to manufacturing and the steel industry. The City of Sterling’s website suggests Sterling has, “an abundance of recreational opportunities”, including but not limited to five golf courses and a river, they also point out that, “you can always drive just an hour or two at the most in any direction to find what you need.” Famous residents of Sterling include Pulitzer prize winning author, Jesse Lynch Williams, Nobel laureate Paul Flory and REO Speedwagon frontman, Michael Bryan Murphy.

Trevor released his debut EP, Texas Girls and Jesus Christ in March of this year. He’s been quick to follow that up, and this week releases the double A-side single, Judas Said To Be A Man/Endless Shame. A full length album should be due in the not too distant future.

Trevor Sensor is a man in possession of a voice that’s somehow beyond his tender age, whilst comparisons to the likes of The Tallest Man On Earth, Kevin Morby and, of course, Bob Dylan are somewhat inevitable, Trevor’s has more than enough about it to mark it’s own territory. It’s an incredibly flexible instrument capable of pulling off the most heart-wrenching and thoughtful ballad, a gravelly whisky-laden bar-room slur, and a huge widescreen Americana number, each seemingly delivered with a natural ease.

Texas Girls and Jesus Christ, the tital track of his EP, starts with a jaunty acoustic strum, not so much upbeat as it is energetic. Lyrically it seems to contrast the lure of Texas Girls, “with their blues eyes and their purples jeans” to the lure of faith, Trevor questioning what Jesus would make of the world we live in, were he “hiding in a bar down in Texas, where he heard bigger is better even from the heart.” The track explodes into a full-blown hoe-down towards the end, recalling the more country-pop side of Bright Eyes’ output.

It is not the only moment on the record that explores faith in the modern world; on Satan’s Man, a gravelly bar-room country number with hints of John Murry, Trevor explores the battle between good and evil, and pleads for some help to avoid the darkness that can, “turn me to the man I don’t want to be.” That battling with demons is also present in a cover of Bruce Cockburn’s Pacing The Cage, a track he was drawn to the minute he heard the lyric, “sometimes you feel you live your life too long and days drip slowly on the page”, but it’s perhaps in a lyric that comes later that the two songwriters narratives entwine, “sometimes the road leads through dark places, sometimes the darkness is your friend.” Either way it’s a delightful cover, Trevor showing himself equally capable of bashing out a piano ballad as he is at navigating his way around the fret board.

Best of all though here is the stunning Nothing Is Fair, a track that fizzes with injustice and rage, it’s the sort of political folk that Bob Dylan or Woody Guthrie would have written were they alive in the modern day. It concerns the controversial shooting of Walter Scott by a policeman, Michael Slager. Scott’s death prompted huge protests across the United States and fuelled the ongoing debate into race and policing in America. Trevor confronts the issues head on, from the planting of evidence, to the arguments about whether police should carry guns, and even to his own fears for his generation. Ultimately he concludes, “I wrote this song for Walter Scott, because I’m not a jury who can be bought, I was told to believe in a country that is free but ain’t nothing fair for you and me.” This song is topical; Slager’s trial will occur later this year, political and moving, everything we’re so often told modern songwriters are not, it’s also absolutely fantastic.

Whilst Trevor has only shared a handful of songs so far, he’s already proving to be a rather intriguing prospect. The five tracks that make up his debut EP, Texas Girls and Jesus Christ, suggest him to be a thoughtful lyricist and versatile songwriter. Whilst new single, Judas Said To Be A Man, suggests he might have enough pop nous to make a good fist of this music thing, certainly fans of the likes of The War On Drugs or Hiss Golden Messenger will find plenty to admire.

Why Not?
A man with a guitar, singing about faith, women and political injustice. Pah, we’ve heard that one before thanks very much. Certainly some people might think that, but Trevor Sensor is a man putting his own spin on the oldest show in town, and to our ears he’s doing a rather good job of it.

Texas Girls and Jesus Christ is out now via Jagjaguwar. Trevor Sensor plays Dot to Dot festival this weekend, click HERE for details of all his upcoming shows.

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