Tag Archives: Evan Felker

Collaborative Review: Turnpike Troubadours–A Long Way From Your Heart

Brianna and I are both huge fans of this band, and again, I do apologize that this comes late, but the only fair way to review this is a collaboration, and so we are here now to discuss our thoughts. Both of us enjoyed the new album, but this is definitely the most we’ve differed on a collab piece, which certainly made it a fun discussion, hopefully also a fun read.

Conversation

Megan: So first off, how would you say this is stacking up against other Turnpike albums? Obviously we’ve both been big fans for a long time, and I’ll just say, this had to grow on me.

Brianna: This one had to grow on me too. But at this point, it’s my second favorite after Diamonds and Gasoline. The band really bring the energy this time around, and the musicianship is stellar. I feel like this is their best album musically, as far as the various styles that are featured.

Megan: See, this is why the collaborations are good. Because for me, musically this is actually my least favorite. I’m not as much a fan of the more rock-influenced direction they went in for some of it. I feel like what got better on this album in particular was the songwriting.

Brianna: I love their country sound so much. Particularly the fiddle and also all the steel guitar on this album. It’s great! But songs like “Something to Hold On To” really show off their abilities with a more rock sound. It’s actually my top favorite song, I think. Also, I have to mention the musicianship on “A Tornado Warning.” That part where the lyrics speak about country music and the band breaks into this great sort of country sound for those few seconds is one of my favorite moments on the whole album instrumentally. As for the songwriting, I agree that it got a lot better. I like the albums before this one a lot, but not since Diamonds and Gasoline have I felt so drawn to the stories and characters.

Megan: Yeah, as an Oklahoman, I have to talk about “A Tornado Warning” for a minute. So essentially, they’re trying to use the music to explain how the wind sounds leading up to and during a tornado. I appreciate these details from them. I know it’s important to Evan Felker just based on stuff I’ve read that he writes about and portrays Oklahoma in the proper light, and I think this song is a great example of that.

Megan: As far as the stories and characters, I think a song like “The Housefire” is an example of the improved songwriting because it’s kind of an average song on the surface, but it gets elevated with the attention to detail and the inclusion of the mysterious Lorrie. If you’re new to Turnpike, you’re not impressed, but if you know Lorrie already, it’s even more significant.

Brianna: It sure is. If you’re new to the band, I’d even recommend going back and checking out the songs where she appears. It’s extremely unique and clever how Evan crafts such compelling stories. I love “The Housefire” and think it’s one of their best story songs. It just feels fuller knowing Lorrie’s backstory.

Megan: I’m glad you mentioned going back, because I think that’s my main criticism with this album. Even though the writing is better, it’s almost like an inside thing by now, like you couldn’t start someone new to this band with this album because of the references and interwoven stories.

Brianna: That’s a good point. I haven’t thought about that. On one hand, you’re right. All these little details, like the Browning shotgun that belongs to the narrator of “The Housefire” keep coming up, so yes, you do miss out on some things if you’ve never listened to them before. I”m more fan and think it’s awesome that these guys have created their own world and characters, but if you look at it this way, it can be a bit alienating. Still, if you are unfamiliar, you wouldn’t really know you’re missing out, and you could still appreciate the song. You’d just not get the bigger picture until you listened to their previous work.

Megan: That’s also a good perspective. So, standout moments for you? I know you’ve already mentioned “Something to Hold On To.”

Brianna: OH yeah, the guitar and chorus of that song are just so catchy! I love it. Besides that one and “The Housefire,” I love the fast pace of “Winding Stair Mountain Blues,” with its sort of bluegrass sound. Plus, the lyrics are very interesting. I also really love “Pay NO Rent” because it’s such a heartfelt description of emotion. “Sunday Morning Paper” is very catchy and also pretty timely, as it’s about the death of rock ‘n’ roll. Really, I could go on about almost all of these songs. What about you?

Megan: I’d agree about “The Winding Stair Mountain Blues” and Pay NO Rent” for sure. “Winding Stair” is just stellar instrumentally, and it shows off their fiddle which I always have a weakness for. On the other side of that, you’ve got “Pay no Rent,” which is pretty much Exhibit A for the fact that Evan Felker is a redneck Shakespeare. Incredibly poetic, well-written song. Also really digging “Pipe Bomb Dream” and “Old Time Feeling (Like Before).”

Brianna: OH, how could I forget about those two? The first thing I noticed about “Pipe Bomb Dream” was all the great steel guitar, but I think painting the portrait of a war vet getting into trouble with the law on account of some rather illicit activities was kind of fun. As for “Old Time Feeling,” I thought it was pretty potent emotionally, as he’s saying he felt exactly the same way he used to. Times have changed, but his feelings haven’t. I like the lyrics of that song a lot.

Megan: It’s easy to forget them, I think, because there are so many great songs. So I think we agree on the low point of the record, that being “Oklahoma Stars.”

Brianna: For sure. It’s not a bad song by any means, but the lyrics don’t really do anything for me. There isn’t one Turnpike Troubadours song I think is awful, but this one just kind of…bores me, I suppose.

Megan: Jamie Lin Wilson did that song at Medicine Stone. She wrote all of it and sent it to Evan, who apparently added the last verse. I actually thought her version was beautiful, and I was really looking forward to hearing theirs. She had written the song after Medicine Stone last year about the experience there; that’s why it mentions the “banks in late September” for example. I actually think their version is completely awful in comparison, because it’s a complete misinterpretation of hers. Hers was much more melodic and heartfelt, and I think this one stripped a lot of that away.

Brianna: Oh wow, I definitely need to see if I can listen to her version. I really like her singing, so I’m betting I’ll like that a lot.

Megan: Yeah, hearing it on this album was majorly disappointing for me. She’s singing with him on it, but it still just doesn’t sound right. Anyway, I’m interested to see what your overall rating of this will be because based on this conversation and some things we’ve said in private, I think this may be the first time your rating beats mine.

Brianna: I think I’ll have to go with a 9.5 on this one. The instrumentation really is stellar, and the sound is much fuller than on their previous albums. The writing is very well done, and I love most of these songs. Really, the only thing bringing this album down for me is my total lack of feeling toward “Oklahoma Stars.” While I definitely acknowledge your point about the number of things on this album that are kind of special only if you’re already familiar with their work, it’s just something that draws me into their music and this album even more.

Megan: Everyone, take note, this is the highest rating for an album Brianna has yet given here. I myself don’t love it as much as you, I’d go with an 8 for this album. The songs I enjoy I absolutely love, but it’s not the entire album for me. Definitely a solid addition to their discography, but I guess I’ll be in the minority because I don’t think it’s their best album overall. And we’ve created a weird collective rating for this which has never happened before.

Collective Rating: weirdly, 8.75/10

Buy the Album

Go See the Turnpike Troubadours Live If It’s the Last Thing You Do

It’s been a weird month for me, and I’m sorry I’m just getting to this now, but trust me, I had to take some time for myself, and it was well worth it. I do expect there to be quite an influx of writing during the next few days because I’ve been listening to a lot of music but haven’t had the time to really sit down and write my thoughts on anything.

But absolutely the first thing I have to address is the live show I saw last Friday in Oklahoma City at a place called the Criterion for the Turnpike Troubadours’ album release party. I’ve now seen Turnpike three times live, and I’m so glad I finally get to devote an entire post to this. I will freely say that in September at Medicine Stone, they didn’t live up to themselves as much, and their show didn’t blow me away on the level that it has each other time, but without a doubt, the Turnpike Troubadours is the best live music experience I’ve had the opportunity to see.

It’s hard to even begin to put into words the kind of brilliance you see at a Turnpike show, but you know all that ridiculous fiddle and guitar and just generally awesome instrumentation? It’s barely contained on their albums, and then you hear it just basically come unleashed in a live setting. There’s nothing like the opening to “Before the Devil Knows We’re Dead” as the band just breaks out into the song, and all hell breaks loose. It’s surreal to listen to a song like “Seven and Seven,” meant to be such a deep and thought-provoking number, be screamed out among thousands of people because somehow this band managed to write it in an upbeat, concert-friendly way. This helped me to enjoy some of the new album more–you’ll see my thoughts on that shortly, by the way–because songs like “The Housefire” work better in a live setting, and suddenly a serious song becomes lively and fun. And then you get moments like “Pay no Rent,” where the songwriting of Evan Felker is on full display, and even if you came here looking for a party, you can’t help but be hit by the genius in these lyrics.

Even having seen Turnpike twice already, “Long Hot Summer Day” is a moment I was looking forward to, just hearing the fiddle over and over for the chorus. At Medicine Stone, they had tended to do this as an encore, but here, they did it as the finale, to ridiculous applause. The encore featured Jamie Lin Wilson, who had been the opener and is another great live performer, and she was there for “Call a Spade a Spade,” a song she appears on in its studio version. The night ended with “The Bird Hunters,” which is amazing in and of itself, because that song is a five-minute, waltzing heartbreak song, and yet, the Troubadours manage to make it something lively enough for the end of a concert. It’s truly special to hear everyone singing along to this, and it makes me go back to Jamie Lin saying that Evan Felker somehow manages to write “deep, thoughtful songs that also make you want to party.” This is extremely rare, and it means both that this band’s writing might be a little underappreciated and also that they’re accessible enough for everyone.

They’re certainly being given greater attention now, but the Turnpike Troubadours are still massively underrated. Trigger addressed this a little on SCM, but it’s a shame that artists like Turnpike and others are struggling to find live audiences outside Texas and Oklahoma because they should be on the level of Isbell and Simpson. NO question. So go out and support the best band making country music today if you have any interest in live music at all.

Single Review: Turnpike Troubadours’ “The Housefire”

Rating: 8/10

Well, Lorrie’s back.

That’s almost the first thing you notice about this new Turnpike song, the reemergence of Lorrie, who first appeared in “Good Lord Lorrie” and later in “The Mercury” and can arguably be linked to several other Troubadours songs. Here, she’s a beacon of assurance, grabbing the baby and calling the fire department as the narrator’s house burns to the ground. You can tell he admires her calmness; he’s watching speechlessly as his house burns, but he reflects that Lorrie “never missed a note” as she wrapped up their baby in a coat “she found out in my ride.” Seeming to draw his strength from Lorrie, he observes that “I can live on so much less” as he stands barefoot outside with only “a photograph and my old auto 5.” Same shotgun from “The Bird Hunters?” Perhaps, and that would possibly give us another piece of the Lorrie puzzle, if indeed she’s the one the narrator of that epic is thinking of as he lifts the gun to his shoulder in the opening moments of their last album. We also have the possible links of the “logging roads” mentioned here and in that song, although in rural Oklahoma, such roads are prevalent, so I wouldn’t be as quick to assert that particular connection.

But all this is part of the mystery that makes an Evan Felker-penned tune a joy to listen to, as he weaves compelling stories together that at once make you feel like you know these characters and also give you very little information about them. But he told us the new album would have lots of narrative songs, so we may yet learn more about these characters and how it all connects. Or maybe Felker himself is adding pieces to the story as he writes. Anyway, this particular narrative is a great picture of all the little details that happened in those few moments of the house burning down. Add to that their signature stellar instrumentation, and what we have is yet another great song from this band. It’s a comfort to hear when my ears have recently been subjected to the horrors of the new songs from Luke Bryan, Dylan Scott, and Taylor Swift. IN a world with the Turnpike Troubadours, we’ll always have some good music to balance it out. Can October 20th please get here already?

Written by: Evan Felker

Album Review: Turnpike Troubadours Make Oklahoma Proud With Their Self-Titled Album

Rating: 10/10

If you are not very familiar with the Red Dirt scene, allow me to introduce the Turnpike Troubadours, a Red Dirt band from my home state of Oklahoma. Their new, self-titled album, released Friday (September 18th), is their first release since 2012’s Goodbye Normal Street, and it was well worth the wait. This is an excellent place to start with the Turnpike Troubadours and with the Red Dirt scene in general.

The album opens with “The Bird Hunters,” which unashamedly features a fiddle for much of its five minutes. In fact, I’ll go ahead and say it now–I don’t think I’ve ever heard such a concentrated amount of fiddle on any other album. If you had a shortage of fiddle in your life, I suggest you purchase this album immediately…but I digress. Aside from that piece of awesomeness, the song itself is beautifully written, describing two friends hunting in Cherokee County; the narrator hunts, but his mind is on a woman whom he left in Tulsa after deciding not to marry her. It seems that this narrator was not cut out for city life, but he still misses, or at least thinks about, the woman he left behind. This is a fantastic opener and sets the tone of the album perfectly. “The Mercury” is my early favorite; here, frontman Evan Felker sings of the wild nights and women at Tulsa’s Mercury Lounge. “It’s 1 A.M., and wild and loud, like sittin’ in the middle of a funnel cloud,” pretty much sums this up. The instrumentation in this song is great, the perfect blend of fiddles and rock guitars. Next is “Down Here,” the current single, which sits at #4 on the
Texas Music Chart. This is a nice, somewhat lighthearted song in which the narrator is trying to offer a friend some encouragement during a hard time. It was a good choice for a single, and it will certainly get to #1–it hit #10 after only five weeks on the chart. It’s probably my least favorite song on the album, but when my least favorite is a solid song and a perfect single choice, I really can’t complain.

“Time of Day” is another lighthearted track about a man promising to give a woman all he has if “you give me just a minute of your time of day.” It’s a catchy song that would make a good future single. “Ringing in the Year” features some more of that great Red Dirt sound found in “The Mercury”; here, a man is missing a woman and wondering if she ever thinks about him. There’s an honesty in this song that can really connect with you if you listen to the lyrics–“Won’t you miss your whiskey in the wintertime, my dear, the way I’ve been missin’ you this fall, And cheap champagne don’t dull the pain of ringing in the year, wonderin’ if you think of me at all.” “A Little Song” is just that–an acoustic “little tune” written for a woman whom the narrator has apparently wronged, and “I wrote a little rhyme to make it right.” It’s very much a case of less is more–a simple little song that nevertheless leaves its mark on the listener. It’s more of that raw honesty from “Ringing in the Year.”

“Long Drive Home” is a musically excellent song saturated with fiddles and rock guitars. But if you think instrumentation is this ban’ds only strength, think again–the line “You still can’t forgive the times that I wish I could forget” is brilliant, perfectly capturing the narrator’s thoughts on the broken relationship described in this song. It’s another one of my favorites on this album. Now, I’ve heard a lot of fiddle, but not very much steel guitar–but just when I was wondering where I might find it, I am treated to an excellent re-recording of “Easton and Main.” This song was on their first album and tells us how the man “left my heart in Tulsa, on the corner of Easton & Main, on the Cain’s Ballroom floor, soaking up a bourbon stain.” Okay, so I found the steel guitar, and on “7 Oaks,” I pretty much find everything else. From the excellent keyboards to more of those great fiddles to a harmonica, this is just fun to listen to. The song itself tells of the hard times on a farm–“There ain’t no silver left in these pockets, and there ain’t no cornbread, and there ain’t no wine, that train don’t stop around here anymore, it done moved on down the line.” They are singing about being bankrupt and yet this is far more entertaining and fun to listen to than any tailgate party song I have ever come across. It would be incredible to hear live, as would “Doreen,” a song that tells the story of Doreen, who seems to be cheating on the narrator while he is on the road. At this point, I have no words sufficient for the instrumentation; everyone here should make it their goal to hear this band live. I can’t do it justice in writing, and I have a great feeling that this album can’t do the live versions justice either.

The album slows down for “Fall out of Love,” a brilliantly written song reflecting on why people fall out of love. Evan Felker sings of a broken relationship with more of that raw honesty, and if you’re not blown away by the line, “You bet your heart on a diamond, and I played the clubs in spades,” then I don’t know what will impress you–and credit to R.C. Edwards for crafting such a line, making a rare but valuable contribution on the album with this song. The album concludes with a re-recording of “Bossier City,” a fun, upbeat song about going to Bossier City to party and gamble, without the girlfriend’s knowledge. It features the fiddles with which this album so boldly began, closing the album excellently and appropriately.

In case you have not figured it out, the Turnpike Troubadours have given us a fantastic album. It was certainly worth the wait and is one of the best albums of 2015. they continue to make great country music and have made Oklahoma and Red Dirt proud. I highly recommend this album.

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