Who Are the Turnpike Troubadours?

by Clayton Edwards
(Photo by Rick Kern/WireImage via Getty Images)

Back in November, the Turnpike Troubadours made huge waves when they announced that their two-year hiatus was ending. Those waves turned into tsunamis as they started announcing tour and festival dates. If you’ve found yourself wondering who these guys are and what they’re all about, we’ve got you covered.

The Turnpike Troubadours at a Glance

Turnpike Troubadours are a five-piece Red Dirt band from Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Evan Felker (vocals/guitar), R.C. Edwards (bass), Kyle Nix (fiddle), Ryan Engleman (guitar), and Gabe Pearson (drums) put the band together back in 2007. That year, they self-released the album Bossier City. Sadly, you won’t find that on streaming services and physical copies will cost you an arm and a leg. It is, however, available in its entirety on YouTube and I highly recommend checking it out.

Turnpike Troubadours dropped their next album, Diamonds & Gasoline, in 2010, and it’s still a fan favorite. Two years later, they dropped Goodbye Normal Street, their first album to make the charts. It peaked at number 14 on Billboard’s Hot Country Albums chart. Their next two albums, a self-titled record (2015) and A Long Way From Your Heart (2017) both peaked at number 3.

Musically, the Turnpike Troubadours blend a little Outlaw Country, some Cajun zydeco, a dash of bluegrass, and top it all off with a pinch of rock and roll. Simply put, they’re Red Dirt at its finest. It’s not just their sound that has pulled in so many fans over the years, though. Evan Felker’s songwriting is next-level. It seems that he approaches his writing like a storyteller. If you listen long enough, you’ll start to notice recurring characters and storylines that intersect. It’s unique, relatable, and just so damn good.

Letting the Music Speak for Itself

I’ll introduce you to a few of my favorite songs here. Then, you can scroll down and listen to Outsider’s Turnpike Troubadours playlist. Just put it on shuffle, turn up the volume, and let it play. You’ll be glad you did.

The Housefire

The Turnpike Troubadours opened A Long Way from Your Heart with this tune. It’s a great example of how Evan Felker can turn smalltown slice-of-life stories into epic songs. The tune tells the tale of a young family who loses their home to a fire. It starts with escaping the fire and talks about some of the strain, hardship, and life lessons that come from that kind of loss.

Pay No Rent

While playing at Paste Studios back in 2017, Evan Felker revealed that he penned this song for his aunt. They were very close and she made him swear that he would play “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” at her funeral. As it turns out, she’d had the same conversation with every other musician she knew. As a result, Felker sat down with former bandmate John Fullbright the night before her funeral and wrote this song.

The Bird Hunters

This is one of my favorite cuts from Turnpike Troubadours’ self-titled album. It’s the story of a small-town boy who moves away to the city to be with a girl. When that relationship falls apart, he goes back to his hometown. The whole story is told through the lens of a day bird hunting with an old friend and a good dog.

Listen to Turnpike Troubadours

Four of the Turnpike records are available to stream on Spotify. I compiled some of the best cuts from each album on Oklahoma Stars: Essential Turnpike Troubadours check it out below and follow Outsider on Spotify to get all the best music from our favorite artists.