by Julian Spivey
Red dirt country band the Turnpike Troubadours returned to The Rev Room in Little Rock, Ark. for the first time in a year and a half on Friday, Feb. 13 for a fantastic show featuring both fan favorites and some new music that will appear on a future album.
The show began around 9 p.m. with an extremely energetic performance from opening act Paul Cauthen, who certainly got the sold out Rev Room crowd raring to go for the main act with his terrific country music and Dwight Yoakam-esque dance moves.
The Turnpike Troubadours, probably the best act currently going in the red dirt country music subgenre popular in the Texas-Oklahoma-Arkansas area, took the stage around 10:30 p.m. with a rip-roaring performance of one of their many fan-favorites “Every Girl” from their 2010 album Diamonds & Gasoline. The group would follow their opener with two more performances from that terrific album that put them on the red dirt map: “7&7,” a personal favorite of mine, and “Shreveport.”
The group took some time out of their set early on during their show to debut some new music that they’ve been working on while on the road. Lead singer Evan Felker said that the group has about half of a new album recorded, which is truly fantastic news for fans of the Turnpike Troubadours longing for brand new music. The band hasn’t released a new album since 2012’s Goodbye Normal Street. The new music all sounded like vintage Troubadours and should definitely excite fans whenever it’s finished and released, which hopefully won’t take too long.
Two things really set the Turnpike Troubadours out from most acts currently in both country music and the red dirt subgenre: the incredible songwriting, mostly done by Felker, and the intensity with which they perform live. If you’ve never had the opportunity to see the Turnpike Troubadours perform live you are truly missing out and must find them at a venue near you. Felker is simply a man possessed at the microphone and Kyle Nix is among the very best fiddle players I have ever seen perform live. The rest of the band: R.C. Edwards on bass, Ryan Engelman on lead guitar and Gabe Pearson on drums is spot on, as well.
The group absolutely tore through great song after great song from their two biggest albums Diamonds & Gasoline and Goodbye Normal Street throughout the night as the jam-packed crowd sang along to every single song with delight. Among the best performances were “Gin, Smoke, and Lies,” “Before the Devil Knows We’re Dead,” “Wrecked” and “Morgan Street.”
Quite possibly my favorite performance of the evening was “Good Lord Lorrie,” from Goodbye Normal Street, which seemed to be the crowd favorite, as well, with its references to Arkansas scattered throughout the song. Felker let the crowd take care of many of the choruses.
Other performances I really enjoyed were “Whole Damn Town” and “Kansas City Southern,” both from Diamonds & Gasoline, which are among the best in the Troubadours’ discography. Felker is truly an underrated songwriter who specializes in really what comes down to Southern storytelling and these songs are fine representations of that.
The band’s encore included a passionate cover of The Beatles’ classic “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” with Felker belting out the lyrics mightily with Nix playing beautiful fiddle beside him, Edwards taking a vocal opportunity on a cover of Hayes Carll’s “Beaumont” and the group finished up with yet another fan-favorite in “Long Hot Summer Day.”
The Turnpike Troubadours truly are a revelation that shall not be missed. I highly recommend checking out this band’s music first and then finding them near you as soon as possible.