Outsider Anthems: ‘Long Hot Summer Day’ by Turnpike Troubadours

by Clayton Edwards

Here at Outsider, we know that a good day’s work is about more than a paycheck. Knowing that your hard work is improving your family’s life is priceless. However, when you can take a few days off and get paid for it, that’s a different kind of bliss.

That’s why “Long Hot Summer Day” by Turnpike Troubadours is this week’s Outsider Anthem. It’s all about putting in the hard work to earn the good things in life.

Turnpike Troubadours closed their 2010 album, Diamonds and Gasoline, with “Long Hot Summer Day.” However, they weren’t the first to cut the song. John Hartford wrote it and released it on his 1976 album, Mark Twang. His version is more than solid. The original arrangement only contains a fiddle and light percussion. The Troubadours kick it up a notch. Their cover contains plenty of guitar, bass, a harmonica, and a soaring fiddle.

John Hartford’s version is a good way to look back at a season of hard work. On the other hand, the Turnpike Troubadours’ cut has a strong beat and lively arrangement. Combined with Hartford’s positive lyrics, the tune make it the perfect soundtrack to a long hard day—and since summer is almost over, we wanted to squeeze the tune into our Anthem series.

The chorus is all about working toward the good things, and we’re all about it.

Every day I’m workin’ on the Illinois River / Get a half a day off with pay. / Old tow boat pickin’ up barges / On a long hot summer day.”

Hard-Working Okies

Evan Felker (vocals/guitar), R.C. Edwards (bass), Kyle Nix (fiddle), Ryan Engleman (guitar), and Gabe Pearson (drums) came together in Oklahoma in 2007. That year, Turnpike Troubadours self-released their debut album, Bossier City. Three years later, they dropped Diamonds & Gasoline. Both albums have become favorites among their fans.

Turnpike Troubadours saw some chart success with their next three albums. Goodbye Normal Street (2012) landed at No. 14 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart. Their self-titled record (2015) and A Long Way from Your Heart both reached No. 3.  

Sonically, Turnpike Troubadours seamlessly blend Outlaw Country, Cajun music, bluegrass, and rock to create a sound that is all their own. However, Felker’s narrative-style songwriting sets them apart from the pack.

Turnpike Troubadours went on an indefinite hiatus in 2019. Fans around the world are waiting for the day when they get the band back together.

A Positive Look at Long Days and Hard Work

The thing that stands out about “Long Hot Summer Day” is that there isn’t a word of complaint. In fact, most of the song is about the good things that come from hard work.

If you’re cranking the Turnpike Troubadours’ cut to get you through the day, you’ll know what I mean. The chorus talks about earning paid time off. Additionally, the second and third verses talk more about the rewards of a good day’s work.

In the second verse, Felker sings about the woman waiting for him at home. “Well, I got me a gal in Pekin / She’s a good ol’ gal, okay.”

The third verse highlights one of life’s simple pleasures: good food. “Well, last night we had pork for supper / Tomorrow’ll be chicken consommé / and a fruit jar full of iced tea.”

More from Turnpike Troubadours

If you’re just now hearing Turnpike Troubadours, you’re in for a treat. They’re one of those bands that never cuts a bad song. So, go ahead and give Diamonds & Gasoline a spin. You won’t be sorry. However, my personal favorites are “The Housefire” from A Long Way from Your Heart, and “The Bird Hunters” from their self-titled album.