Slaton Glover was born with a gift for crafting heartbreaking trad-country hooks, and with the kind of voice that seems tailor-made for bringing those hooks to life in song — which he does now as frontman for his Charleston, S.C. outfit The Travelin’ Kine. But it took long years and hard times for Glover to come to grips with the nature of his gift, and to accept the life-altering challenge of cultivating it to its fullest potential.
A Charleston-area firefighter-cum-weekend-singer-songwriter for more than a decade, Glover went through a crisis of the soul when his marriage fell apart at age 32. Divorce pushed Glover to reevaluate his life’s path, and it came up wanting; pairing with local songwriter and mandolinist David Vaughan, he took a new career tack, began assembling the unit that would become The Travelin’ Kine, and dove headlong into a life as a full-time musician and bandleader.
“I had always wanted to make music more of a career, but I hesitated,” Glover says. “I’d been in some garage bands, done this and that, but I held back. Then the divorce happened, and I rethought everything. I quit my job, started playing more solo gigs, and I linked up with David.”
That was around 2012; over the next year or so, the duo added members, filling out the roster of the now-six-piece Travelin’ Kine. Since then, they’ve won a number of state and local music awards, and released their powerful debut, “Change in the Wind.”
Glover tells that he grew up listening to outlaw country staples like Cash and Nelson and Jennings, and even some 1980s-era country, as he drops George Strait’s name as an influence, as well. But come the 1990s and the advent of Garth Brooks and his lightweight pop-country contemporaries, Glover dropped out, his heart won over by the potent strains of the era’s heavy rock ‘n’ roll.
“Country started to suck in the ’90s, and I got way into Metallica,” Glover relates. “I went through a period of time where all I wanted to do was be the next James Hetfield.”
He acknowledges now that the Hetfield dream was never meant to be, though perhaps it had more to do with the nature of the aforementioned gifts than any lack of heavy mettle. Because as evidenced by the material on “Change in the Wind,” Glover has a way with writing achingly bittersweet country laments, and a voice — a leathery, agreeably worn baritone — that conveys heartache and loss with the kind of painful directness that’s endemic to but a tiny subset of accomplished country crooners.
Next up for Glover and his band is a follow-up to “Change in the Wind,” which is being produced by Josh Roberts, a well-traveled South Carolina rock musician and producer. So far, Glover says Roberts has the band poised to make a second record that’s both more accomplished and more authentic than their debut.
“Yeah, even though he’s a rock ‘n’ roll guy, there are a couple of songs where he’s actually pushing us toward very traditional country,” he says. “There are some songs with a southern rock edge, too. But he’s also made us a much tighter, better band. We put on a great live show, and I really want to have that come through on this album.”
The Travelin’ Kine will play Preservation Pub Sunday, April 29 at 9 p.m.