Sadly, as I write this, the Turnpike Troubadours are an "indefinite hiatus," as evidenced by the apparent struggles that frontman Evan Felker has had with alcohol over the past few years. Despite this, the Turnpike Troubadours were able to catch lightning in a bottle on four consecutive albums to provide listeners with some of the greatest country music of the 2000`s. It all truly started here, on this album, chock full of sing along anthems such as "Every Girl," "Whole Da*n Town," and the John Hartford cover "Long Hot Summer Days." And that is just the tip of the iceberg. Within this album every single song has some sort of message or point that the band tries to get across and frontman Evan Felker delivers worldly wisdom in his stoic style without ever trying to sound too philosophical or overbearing. The band simply states things the way they see it. Take "Kansas City Southern," where the narrator laments that fact that every night he has a new lover and he cannot seem to break out of this pattern, and while not condoning the behavior, he simply is resigned to continue it until something sticks. Or "7 & 7," (one of my all time favorite Troubadour songs) where the narrator, Likely Felker, tells the story of an old love, from his teenage years that he hasn`t really gotten over, and has not truly gotten past those days of his life, and has lost "that old familiar feeling" he had in these days. See it`s songs like these, written with simple truths, but often strike a deeper nerve and have truly profound meetings that go deeper than most country songs these days. The songs tell stories of every day happenings, and also of everyday people. People who have been through the ringer, have had love, lost it, and are searching to find it again.
Beyond this, there is some pretty nice instrumentation to be found here, and though it pales in comparison to later work the Twangy Telecaster of Ryan Engleman lays down some phenomenal licks on tracks like "7&7" and "Long Hot Summer Days." Fiddler Kyle Nix and bass player (and one of the main songwriters) R.C. Edwards offer up some fine work scattered throughout the album. With country albums, sometimes you don`t always see a marked progression in some artists in comparison to bands or artists of other genres, but with the Turnpike Troubadours, they start at a very high level, one that showcases the clear talent of the members of the band, but also leaves room for improvement that was shown on later records. Listening to this record, the band may sound fully formed and that is true, some of these songs are absolutely among their best work, but they have proven time and time again that they can improve and craft even more quality songs. With the Turnpike Troubadours, it`s a no filler approach to work as every single song on this album has a place and purpose tos erve without ever truly bogging down the near hour long run time. And there isn`t really a down song here at all, just ones that are clear frontrunners and others that are good, but not as good as the others, which is saying a lot about the quality of work that these men have put together.
There are many songs I haven`t covered such as the slowed down and somber "Diamonds and Gasoline," and "1968" both with some truly poetic lines from Evan Felker, to "The Funeral," the story of a prodigal son coming back for the funeral of his dad. Every single song has a story and every single one is worth covering and listening to. There are small insights that we can all pick up on and take away from this record, and yet at the end of the day, it may not even be their best work.
Not often does a band like this come around, and though they may have left us forever, their memory lives through their music and through the wisdom that they have left us with.