Over the course of their career, Oklahoma sons Turnpike Troubadours have exhibited a commitment to melding country music traditions with a ragged edge which perfectly exemplifies the roots of Red Dirt Country. With less of a focus on rock sounds than those in the alt.-country movement (although they do provide a superb cover of an Old 97s track here), they have built a sound designed to invoke images of smoky barrooms and raucous crowds. After three years, it was worth the wait.
The opening track serves as a strong indicator of the music contained within. "The Bird Hunters" leads with the fiddle, a strong presence on the entire album, as they unravel the story of a man dealing with the demise of a relationship. The sparse accompaniment and focus on lyrical content of "A Little Song" brings to mind John Fullbright. The players shine on "7 Oaks" with exciting guitar work, a lively harmonica and jaunty saloon piano providing an entertaining country jam session. While the band excel at numbers that are revved up, Evan Felker's vocals take center stage on the tender ballad "Fall Out of Love," shining a light on the natural soul in his voice, which is easily overlooked on the faster songs. The accordion accompaniment on "Bossier City" provides a Cajun edge to the fun sing along track.
The guys build upon their strengths and showcase newfound maturation, weaving Felker's songwriting and sweet twang with an increasingly evident instrumental expertise. While Felker handled the majority of writing, bassist R.C. Edwards contributed three tracks ("Fall Out of Love," "07 Oaks" and the rerecorded "Easton & Main"). In addition, an inspired cover of Old 97s' "Doreen" fills out the track listing.
The songs are well written. There is a perfect balance of varying tempos, and the musicianship is solid. This album heralds the shift from exciting bar band to accomplished musicians, as the guys provide their strongest effort to date.