Sep 18, 2015

Album Review: Turnpike Troubadours - s/t

Turnpike Troubadours feels like the perfect album to self-title. As good, nay great, as they already were, this is the album where the Oklahoma band finds its best self.

I hold this band in high regard: they've graced the upper reaches of FTM year-end lists, I tout them on social media frequently, and "Gin Smoke and Lies" has been my ringtone for a couple of years now. That said, I've always felt there was a certain grayness to TPT's sonic palette. Maybe it was production, maybe the individual players were a little "too" in sync… I'm not well-versed enough in this sort of thing to discern - I just know there was a vague sameness, even amidst the unquestionably peerless talent.

On this record, they let a little color and light in, and it's just enough to fully realize the absurd potential of this group. There's space, separation, and vividness in the sound. The slower songs soar, the rockers punch, and there's fiddle and steel galore. On a good set of speakers, this thing is stunning.

Their writing was already excellent, but they've even upped their game in that department. "The Bird Hunters" tells the tale of a man coming to terms with an ended relationship over the course of a quail hunt. This could come across as hokey or forced in the hands of a lesser act. The Troubadours make it a song-of-the-year candidate, epic, cinematic, and immersive.

Later on there's the heartfelt meta-song "A Little Song," an updated version of sure-fire modern Red Dirt classic "Easton & Main," and a rocking take on alt-country legends Old 97's "Doreen." 

Other standouts include all the songs on the album. There are no bad cuts, and only a couple that strike me as anything less than top shelf. Certainly, time could fade my adulation, but that may be more from over-listening than a change of opinion.

You're unlikely to hear another country album better than Turnpike Troubadours in 2015. It's a benchmark, and hopefully a platform for this deserving band to find greater recognition on the national music scene.

If you need a grade: A


Turnpike Troubadours is available on iTunes, Amazon, Lone Star Music, etc.

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