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      Turnpike Troubadours in Des Moines

      • Turnpike Troubadours Photo #1
      1 of 1
      August 8, 2019

      Thursday   7:00 PM

      520 Robert D. Ray Dr
      Des Moines, Iowa

      Turnpike Troubadours

      with Old 97's
      Roughly 3,300 people live in Okemah, Oklahoma, a town with vintage redbrick storefronts, adive bar called the Rocky Road Tavern, a name that means things up high in Kickapoo,and a strange track record of birthing great American songwriters: Woody Guthrie is fromOkemah. Grammy-nominee John Fullbright is, too. Evan Felker belongs on that list.I was born in Okemah but was raised in Wright City, a town in southeastern Oklahoma,Felker says. Now I live in Okemah again. The characters I write about are living in thatworld I grew up ina bucolic, dirt-underneath-your-fingernails sort of world. People where Igrew up are tough. Its nice to be able to represent them in art.Felker is the frontman, cofounder, and primary songwriter for Turnpike Troubadours, avirtuosic band of country-rock road dogs who, on any given night of the week, will play for amuch bigger crowd than the populations of Okemah and Wright City combined.Singer/guitarist Felker, fiddler Kyle Nix, steel and electric guitarist Ryan Engleman, bassistRC Edwards, drummer Gabe Pearson, and steel and accordion player Hank Early deliverpunch after punch of smart rock-and-roll that sells out huge venues throughout the Midwestand South and packs legendary haunts like the Troubadour in Los Angeles.With their highly anticipated fourth album A Long Way from Your Heart, the sextet is poisedfor even bigger breakthroughs. Narratives put to music are nothing new, but Felker and hisbandmates have upped the ante, creating a web of unforgettable characters that show upon album after album in songs that are both catchy and musically complex: men and womenwith their backs against their wall, represented realistically but also imbued with dignity. Itfeels like going home to see that those characters are still alive in a way that movies andliterary writers have always done, Felker says of the recurring favorites. It feels good.There they are, all based on people that I know and love. Theyre composite charactersbased on real people.A Long Way from Your Heart was produced by Grammy winner Ryan Hewitt (The AvettBrothers, Flogging Molly, Red Hot Chili Peppers). The result is a rare triumphan albumthat hooks immediately but then rewards listeners willing to dig deeper. I love what we as aband have turned into and how we treat songs, Felker says. Thats something wevegrown intoadding some sort of oddly theatrical element to the musicianship to help thestory along, to sum up where or who the character is to give him a little bit of landscape. Itsnot just an acoustic guitar and a guy telling you what somebodys doing.The bands impressive musicianship is multifaceted: fun with time signatures via lapses intodouble or half time; clean, abrupt stops; stealthy fingerpicking; unassailable grooves.Felkers warm vocals invite both closer listening and dancinga tricky mix that he exudesnaturally. Unconventional mash-ups work for Felker, who shrugs off attempts to label whathe does. I find art in a lot of places, he says. I find things that arent considered art in a lotof peoples views of the world artful.A Long Way from Your Heart kicks off with a fine example of art in the unexpected. Basedon the experience of folks Felker knew back home, The Housefire captures thedevastation and hope that follows losing just about everything. Cushioned by Irish-inspiredstrings, the narrators gentleness as he loses all hes built stands tallest. Rolling singalongSomething to Hold On To begs for one last chance, while the sweetly sad Old TimeFeeling (Like Before)which Felker co-wrote with Edwards and friend Jonny Burkefightsfalling back into old patterns over a lush chorus of strings led by winsome dobro.Album standout Pay No Rent is an ode to Felkers aunt Lou, who lived and owned abeloved local bar in Okemah, the Rocky Road Tavern. She was about the only person Icould go drinking with at 10 a.m. on a Tuesday, Felker says, then laughs. We got to bereally good friends. Wed hang out a lot, fish together, cook together, drink tequila, and builda big-ass fire at her place out on Buckeye Creek. She loved that song Blue Eyes Crying inthe Rain. She said, If I ever dieI hope I never do, but if I doyou gotta play Blue EyesCrying in the Rain at my funeral. Lou passed away last year, and when Felker got thenews, he called good friend John Fullbright, and the two got to work learning the song.Then, the day before the funeral, the two realized Lou had asked about five other people tosing Blue Eyes, too. So between noon and three in the morning, we wrote Pay No Rentfor her instead and played that, Felker explains, laughing again. Based on an old Irishsaying, the song is a gorgeous tribute.Felkers favorite album track, Unrung is a winning amble through warnings, praise, and atinge of jealousy, all written about a good friend. A Tornado WarningFelkers otherfavoriteis a love song brimming with detail. Frenetic story song The Winding StarMountain Blues traces the strained friendship between a stand-up guy and his waywardchildhood friend to immortalize a different kind of heartbreak. Electric shuffler The HardWay is a wry send-up of trying to relive youth when its a little too late.Featuring nimble piano and Haggard-worthy jazz guitar licks, album closer Sunday MorningPaper is a nugget of hero-worshipping wit. Felker was inspired to write the song by hisuncle, Ervin Felker. He gave me my first guitar. He played in bands and was a Marinehes the guy from Blue Star, Felker says, referencing a track from the bands 2012 releaseGoodbye Normal Street. Felker took the first line from one of his uncles songs then pennedthe rest to create a celebration of the giants of 70s country-rockthe elder Felker included.The albums sharply drawn characters and the range of challenges they face creates atapestry thats compelling and ultimately, inspiring. This whole record is about resilience inthe face of tragedytragedies of different sizes, Felker says. Just getting your nose downand dealing with it.

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