A Long Way From Your Heart and Wonderfully, More of the Same
By Kevin Broughton
The striking similarities come quickly. There are too many common threads to miss in “The Bird Hunters,” the opening track of the Turnpike Troubadours’ 2015 self-titled album, and “The House Fire,” our introduction to A Long Way From Your Heart, out today on Thirty Tigers. A hard-driving country beat. A Browning shotgun. Searing heartbreak, met first with resignation and then just a smidgen of hope and resiliency. In fact, the dame who eventually crushes the protagonist shares a name (Good Lord, Lorrie) with a temptress a couple albums back:
I remember smelling smoke, I woke up I was choking.
Lorrie grabbed the baby and we made it safe outside.
She never missed a note, took a breath and cleared her throat,
And wrapped him in a Carhartt coat she found out in my ride.
Turns of phrase like that one are why Troubadours front man Evan Felker is one of the premier songwriters in country music, and by extension, why these guys are the undisputed kings of the Red Dirt scene. Could “The House Fire” be a metaphor for Felker’s recent past, what with several drunken performances the last few years? Maybe. But it’s a damn fine song and a great way to kick of the group’s fifth studio album.
And why, frankly, mess with success? A Long Way From Your Heart is the perfect, logical follow-up to the band’s 2015 release, the hands-down FTM Album of the Year winner. “Something to Hold On To” is straight-up rock ‘n’ roll with a dash of Okie sensibility. “The Winding Stair Mountain” gets in your face with frenetic dose of fiddle, steel and mandolin for a wild, three-and-a-half minute ride, so hang on.
But there’s balance, as with all Troubadours’ records, best exemplified by “Pay No Rent,” a tender friend song reminiscent of “Down Here” a couple years back. No matter the tempo or time signature, nearly all of Felker’s songs have a gentle, human touch. If he can keep his personal life between the ditches, look for the Turnpike Troubadours to sustain this level of greatness for a good while. Because this album sounds like it’s almost too easy for these guys.
A Long Way From Your Heart is available today everywhere you consume music.