The name Turnpike Troubadours suggests traveling music. Strap yourself in and get ready for an exhilarating ride. This Oklahoma-based roots-rock unit soars on its fourth release. Not to diminish the strong songwriting from leader Evan Felker, it's the band's pulsating musicianship with an array of electric instruments combined with fiddle and pedal steel that makes the sound so arresting.
Felker writes mostly about resilience during difficult circumstances. The opener, "The Housefire," speaks of hope amidst the devastation of one who has lost just about everything, but the vocals and underlying fiddle/accordion backdrop evoke gentleness rather than anger. "Something to Hold On To" has a singalong quality as does the Dobro-driven "Old Time Feeling (Like Before)," co-written with bandmate RC Edwards and singer-songwriter Jonny Burke.
The band's bluegrass influences and rocking guitar drive "The Winding Stair Mountain Blues" at a blistering tempo. "The Hard Way" simply rocks. Fellow Okie John Fullbright co-wrote the ballad-like ode to Felker's Aunt Lou in "Pay No Rent," based on an old Irish saying. Trishas' vocalist Jamie Lin Wilson provides harmony on the tune and again on "Oklahoma Stars." "Unrung" is another mostly acoustic melody about a good friend. The closer, "Sunday Morning Paper," was inspired by Felker's Uncle Ervin and features piano and guitar licks that one might associate with Merle Haggard's Strangers.
The album's characters may live through some dark and difficult ordeals, but there's little somberness in the music. It lifts and connects. In fact, the beauty of the record is that you may need to detach yourself from the rollicking music to fully appreciate the stories. Each listen gets better.