The Turnpike Troubadours Release New Album: Goodbye Normal Street

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TU R N P I K E   T R O U B A D O U R S

G o o d b y e   N o r m a l   S t r e e t

Evan Felker – vocals, guitar

RC Edwards – bass, backing vocals

Kyle Nix – fiddle, backing vocals

Ryan Engleman – lead guitar

Gabe Pearson – drums, backing vocals

Times are tough for just about everyone these days,  especially  for  those  who  live  in

what is often referred to as the “flyover states,” in the heart of the country. People have

become tougher, their skins have grown thicker and they have become much harder to

win over. That especially holds true when it comes to the music that rolls into the bars,

music halls and honky tonks of their towns.  The overwhelming success that Turnpike

Troubadours have had on the so-called Red Dirt circuit of those states says a lot about

the quintet’s authenticity and fire, particularly because their music is not exactly what

that scene in known for producing.

“When we first started playing, people couldn’t have cared less that we were there,”

recalls Troubadours’ frontman Evan Felker. “They were there to drink beer and raise

hell and they didn’t really care what music was playing while they did it. But as we

went on and as we got better, they started to listen. I mean, they were still drinkin’

plenty of beer, but before too long, they were actually coming to hear us and asking us

to play our songs, and not just covers of traditional favorites and all the other stuff we’d

been doing.”

Not only did the crowds get more attentive, they kept getting bigger. As time went on,

and the Troubadours broadened their touring circle, they moved on from tiny clubs in

the more obscure corners of the Sooner state and started hitting –  and  selling  out –

prestigious venues like Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa, the Firehouse Saloon in Houston and

Antone’s in Austin.

Over the  course  of  the  past  five years, Felker, bassist RC Edwards, fiddle player Kyle

Nix, guitarist  Ryan Engleman  and  drummer  Gabe  Pearson,  have  honed  the  rowdy,

quick-witted sound that’s brought folks of all stripes together in front of those stages.

And on  Goodbye Normal Street, the Troubadours’ third full-length album, the band

takes that blend of nice and easy and nice and rough and distills it into a 43-minute

ride that takes in the scenery of America’s Heartland and the inner workings of a group

of 20-somethings on a quest for something better.

“This time around, we tried to balance things out,” says bassist Edwards, who shelved

a steady gig as a pharmacist in late 2011 to concentrate on the band. “We wanted to

combine the idea of getting something perfect, the way you can only do in a proper

studio, with the energy of playing in front of a thousand people jumping around and

screaming.”They attack that goal with gusto on Goodbye Normal Street, putting the pedal to the

metal on “Before the Devil Knows We’re Dead” (a breakneck romp about regular folks

who lived hard and died in a blaze of glory) and dialing back to a sensual closing-time

waltz on “Call a Spade a Spade” (a cheater’s lament on which Felker duets with Jamie

Wilson of the Trishas).

Felker, who writes the majority of the lyrics – with an assist from Edwards, who penned

the semi-autobiographical “Morgan Street,” about the band’s hardscrabble early days –

has a knack for capturing slices of life in vivid detail. He can hit hard emotionally with a

song like “Blue Star” (a bittersweet tale of a veteran returning from war) or tweak the

listener with something like “Gin, Smoke and Lies” (on which he contrasts his own

romantic plight with that of a rooster who manages to satisfy 20 partners, and not just


“All the  songs are about people we know,” he says. “And yeah, some of them are

probably about me to some degree  –  the  guy  who  ticks  off  the  wrong  girl  from

Arkansas, and the guy who doesn’t always like what he sees himself becoming. Mostly

though, I think they’re just honest.”

The band  –  which  took  its  name  from  the  Indian  Nation  Turnpike  that  connected  so

many of the smaller towns where they cut their teeth – gradually evolved  from offering

acoustic explorations of tunes by Townes Van Zandt and Jerry Jeff Walker to kicking

out three or four sets a night of full-throttle roadhouse country –  tinged  with  the  punk

rock attitude that was in the air during the members’ teen years.

“We all pretty much grew up with hardcore country music around us,” says Felker. “I

mean, sure, there was rock stuff in there, but the real old-school stuff, plus exposure to

folks like Jason Boland and Cross Canadian Ragweed, really affected what we were

playing. We’re really a product of both our influences and our environment. It wasn’t

something that we sat in a room and dreamed up in one day.”

That’s clear. The raw-boned energy of their 2007 debut,  Bossier City, cut on a

shoestring budget and aimed squarely at getting boots on the dance floor earned

raves from many corners, including No Depression, which dubbed it “a testament to

the small towns in which they were raised … with stories of longing, humor, tragedy

and general life in rural America.” The quintet broadened its horizons on its sophomore

outing,  Diamonds and Gasoline, which spawned the Americana favorite “Every Girl”

and brought them to the attention of folks throughout the country, and overseas.

And with Goodbye Normal Street –  the  name  a  reference  to  another  longtime  band

residence as well as a state of mind that they left behind long ago  –  they  set  their

sights on conquering even more expansive territories. With songs like the blue-collar

anthem “Southeastern Son” and the universally understandable breakup plaint

“Wrecked,” they look pretty likely to conquer them.

“This music, at its best, can put into words what we have been thinking for our entire

lives,” says Felker, “and even at its worst, it gets people drinking beer and makes

people happy. Either of those is fine with me.”

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