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Turnpike Turnaround


Turnpike Troubadours are on the verge of releasing their latest, long-awaited album (out September 18th). Evan Felker and the gang have risen to the top of the Red Dirt heap over the past few years. They’ve been on top of the proverbial artistic mountain for quite a while now.

How did they get here?


Smart songs. Songs that spoke to their audience. Songs that connected with fans across generations and gender. Guys could raise a glass to it, girls could sway to it…and both could sing along. These fantastic songs were backed by a blistering live show They went from releasing Diamonds and Gasoline, touring on it, and watching the slow build go from opening for Josh Grider at Greenfest 10 to headlining the biggest venues and festivals on the circuit within a year. Incredible rise, and richly deserved.

Their meteoric rise mirrored that of bro-country in the mainstream and the least common denominator state-pride girl party anthems that ruled the Texas charts. Instead of just talking about a girl in a demeaning way, Felker’s lyrics on songs such as “7 & 7” humanize the male perspective in a realistic manner and uses a setting as mundane as the grocery store aisle, as opposed to the outrageous macho bravado that was taking place next to the bonfires on the back of tailgates. This smart, subtle difference connected with audiences across all demographics.  Goodbye Normal Street continued this trend and was released in a fairly quick fashion behind the Diamonds and Gasoline cycle. Their songs resonate across demographics.  Old, young.  Male or female.  Everybody finds something to identify with…and that’s what has kept the crowds coming.

It’s the reason why Turnpike Troubadours have become so huge despite playing by their own rules and not bending to any silly regional allegiances of playbooks.  They’re doing what they want to do and where they want to do it.  Much like Ryan Bingham, they’ve grown beyond this scene’s borders by sheer force of will.  And they’re the most popular act going right now simply because they don’t have one bad song on any of their albums.  Now, it’s a near certainty that this next album will be huge.  But, the true test will be the one after that.  If the self-titled album to be dropped next month maintains the quality of the first few, their dominance will continue.  If it falls short of the high bar they’ve created for themselves, cracks will begin to show.

How will they stay there?


People have been waiting on it for a long time and it’s a what have you done for me lately world.  Felker himself admitted in an interview with Justin Frazell at Steamboat last year that he’d “taken his eye off the ball.” The early sneaks at the new album indicate that he and the band have found their swing back in the sweet spot of music.  Lead single co-written by Jonny Burke and Kyle Wieters, “Down Here” is classic TT, and other preview tracks show that everything we dig about this band is continuing.

The landscape has changed during this Turnpike turnaround.  We’ve seen the rise of Sturgill, the assertion of Stapleton and the knighting of Isbell…all rightfully so.  Turnpike Troubadours have earned a seat at that table with their body of work.  This self-titled record will plant them there and hopefully expose an even greater, national audience to what we’ve all been digging for five years or more.  In an age where album sales numbers pale to stream totals and the main number that matters is what happens at the turnstiles of gigs…Turnpike Troubadours have a vast world in front of them.  And, I’m betting they capture it.  The Turnpike turnaround will evolve and grow.  We’re all lucky just to be along for the ride.

{Brad's Corner} August 2015: A Real Superhero

{Brad�s Corner}

A child has no greater hero than their father.  He’s a superhero in real life.  You see his feats up close.  He teaches many things, but never reveals all of his super powers.  In the eyes of a child, there is nothing your dad can’t do.  As you get older you begin to learn that those superpowers aren’t so powerful…but they’re still super.

I lost my father unexpectedly last week.

He’d been in relative good health and making plans for the future.  He was the type of guy who thought he’d live to 100.  Active, engaged, smart.  An accountant by trade and a jack of all others to one degree or another.  A college educated Army paratrooper.  A high school jock with a chest full of trophies.  A handyman with a white collar job.  The kind of guy who, if you were friends with me or my sister, you had a second father.  He was selfless and giving.

He was the type of guy who loved to research and plan.  The internet was a wonderland for him.  We were the first people in my neighborhood to get the internet in the early 90’s thanks to Prodigy, then later AOL.  My friends would flood our house to jump online and hear “You’ve got mail!” or hop in a chat room and get silly.  But, dad was always using it in his own way.  As the ‘net evolved, my dad began to tinker with it in expanded ways.  Ahead of his time.  By present day, he had it down to a mad science.  If you wanted to buy a drill or a new appliance…he would research it down to the type of wires inside.

So, it should of come as no surprise that he had researched and planned his funeral in much the same manner.  After my grandmother passed away a couple years ago and hadn’t done any planning, leaving it up to us…he’d set out to not put my sister and me through that. So, he got busy and tailored his arrangements as finely as he did his favorite recipe.

When we met with the funeral director, it was merely a formality.  He had already planned every facet of his service.  He’d chosen 8 of my friends as pallbearers because they each meant something to him in some way.  Of course, he thought we’d all be in our 50’s and 60’s by the time this took place.  The director reviewed the casket and vault selections he’d made with us and I had to chuckle when she said he bartered with her over the cost.  He had researched it and knew he could get it cheaper from a place in Teague…and let her know that.

Of the many things my dad handed down to me, appreciation of music was one of the most vital.  He didn’t sing.  He couldn’t play guitar.  He didn’t go to a lot of concerts.  But, music was central to his being.  He loved the music of his youth and classic country music.  With the advent of smartphones, he took to jamming his finely tuned Pandora stations from his shirt pocket just about everywhere he went.  He’d tell me “All the music today sounds the same.  It’s not real.”  He was right yet again.

So, it also came as no surprise that he’d already chosen the music for his service.  Alan Jackson’s version of “In the Garden”, Willie Nelson and Patsy Cline’s version of “Just a Closer Walk With Thee” and George Strait’s “You’ll Be There” despite our misgivings at the lyric “…if I make it.”  We chose to include Holly Dunn’s “Daddy’s Hands” in the service.  He would have understood.

Being that he carried his favorite music with him wherever he went, I wanted to avoid the elevator type music they normally play at these events during the visitation and seating etc.  I chose to make a custom playlist for my dad to jam one last time.  Things that were personal to me or my sister…or just felt right. Things he would dig.  Things he, and anyone, could describe as “real”.

Josh Grider’s “Shotgun”; Cory Morrow’s “Just Like You”; Walt Wilkins “Someone Somewhere Tonight”; Conway Twitty’s “That’s My Job”; Dierks Bentley’s “My Last Name”; Alan Jackson’s “Drive”; Wade Bowen’s version of “To Live Is To Fly”; Ricky Van Shelton’s “Keep It Between the Lines” and Adam Hood’s “He Did”.

Each of those touched a different emotion for a different reason.

A dad never loses those superpowers I talked about at the top of this.  They just change.  They evolve.  They live in our hearts and memories.  They live in the lessons he taught. The things and people he loved.  My father’s earthly time may have come to an end…but his superpowers live on.  I think of him when I work on something.  I’ll remember him a lot during football season.  I’ll hear him at a baseball game.  I’ll hear him talking to me as a co-pilot on a roadtrip.  I see him in my kids.  And I’ll remember him when I hear real music.  A super life for a super dad full of super powers.  A real superhero is never forgotten.  A real superhero never leaves. A real superhero is powerful.

A real superhero was my dad.

Proverbs 20:7
“The righteous man walks in his integrity; His children are blessed after him.”


-These will be brief this month.

-Football season is finally here.  Hallelujah.

-Unfortunately that means the hottest temps of the season are as well.  We’ll make it.  I’ve found the best cure to be ice cream.

-True Detective Season 2 was a big, complex, overly thought mess.  Here’s to hoping Season 3 goes better.

-I really want to see the Straight Outta Compton film.  NWA was a pivotal part of my youth.  The growth of hip-hop may have started in the streets…but it was suburban, middle-class white kids like me that took it next level.

-This month’s recommended album:  Pat Green – Home.  Welcome home, PG.  We’ve been waiting on you.  Some of us may have gotten discouraged a time or two…but we knew you’d find your way back.  And this proves it.  Thank you for everything.

-“Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.” – Mark Twain

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