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The Left Lane: Turnpike Troubadours

Goodbye normal, hello fast lane for Okie band

May 2, 2013
By Rich Gibson , Times Leader

So what if Oklahoma's Turnpike Troubadours are set to celebrate the one-year anniversary of their third full-length album?

Chances are a majority of Lane readers aren't familiar with this five-man outfit whose May, 2012 release "Goodbye Normal Street" was easily one of last year's under the radar delights.

Fronted by singer/songwriter Evan Felker, the remaining Troubadours consist of four well-schooled old school players, including lead guitarist Ryan Engleman; fiddle player/backing vocalist Kyle Nix; bassist/backing vocalist RC Edwards and drummer/backing vocalist Gabe Pearson.

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Turnpike Troubadours

A swift visit to the band's website: links to a live version of the CD's exceptional opening track, "Gin, Smoke and Lies." Country-rockers among Lane readers will immediately want to further explore this band's roots.

"When we first started playing, people couldn't have cared less that we were there," admits Felker, a stellar vocalist whose writing skills are plentiful. "(People who came to our shows) were there to drink beer and raise hell. They didn't really care what music was playing.

"But as we went on and as we got better, they started to listen. While they were still drinkin' plenty of beer, before too long, they were actually coming to hear us and asking us to play our songs - not just covers of traditional favorites."

"Goodbye Normal Street" is filled with tall tales of small town heartache ("Call s Spade a Spade"); roadhouse country romps ("Before the Devil Knows We're Dead"); doomed romance ("Good Lord Lorrie") and laments of a southern man fighting abroad for his country ("Southeastern Son").

"We all pretty much grew up with hardcore country music around us," adds Felker who wrote a majority of lyrics for the record. "I mean, sure, there was rock stuff in there, but the real old-school stuff, plus exposure to (Texas) folks such as Jason Boland and Cross Canadian Ragweed really affected what we were playing.

"We're really a product of both our influences and our environment. (The band) wasn't something we sat in a room and dreamed up one day."

On Felker's bittersweet "Blue Star," a veteran returning from the war opines: "Well, you have been a fighting man/You've seen your share of war/Living for your Uncle Sam/But Sam don't need you anymore."

Later, Felker painfully comes to terms with a once-promising love affair turned upside down in "Wrecked."

"Lookin' back when I met you/We were shining/We were brand new/Couple kids who's never been to town/It was a quart of beer/Paper sack/Leave a penny on the railroad track/ But you wrecked it all/You wrecked my heart/You wrecked our house/ And you wrecked my car/I'll salvage what I may when you're gone/But you wrecked it all."

"This music - at its best - can put into words what we've been thinking our entire lives," Felker contends. "And even at its worst, it gets people drinking beer and makes people happy. Either of those is fine with me."

The Troubadours are just back from a European tour, though there are no regional live dates on their online tour schedule. The band, however, will be part of a benefit concert this month (May 17-19) to be held in Gardendale, Tx., to raise funds for those affected by last month's horrific fertilizer plant explosion in West, Tx.


THE summer music festival circuit is rapidly approaching. Wheeling's Bruce Wheeler recently announced a pair of world-renown headliners for August's annual Heritage Music Bluesfest. Living legend Dr. John will make his Bluesfest debut. Additionally, Grammy award-winning singer/songwriter Joan Osbourne is on the Bluesfest schedule. Several additional bands and artists will be announced in coming weeks....

MILWAUKEE'S Summerfest is regarded among the country's premier attractions. And why not with headliners Dr. John, Jason Aldean, Tim McGraw, The Avett Brothers and Pat Benatar already signed to perform on one of 11 stages over 11 days at the 75-acre Henry Maier Fairgrounds, a backdrop of tranquil Lake Michigan.....

CONCERT CALENDAR: This weekend: Lyle Lovett and his Acoustic Group plays Pittsburgh's Carnegie Music Hall in Homestead, an all ages show Friday evening (8:00)...In the city's Strip District, meanwhile, the Nashville-based Grascals play a number of their Grammy-winning bluegrass hits at the Alter Bar, a converted church. This is also an all ages show beginning Friday at 8:00...

Gibson may be reached at



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