Turnpike Troubadours

11:11 Presents

Turnpike Troubadours

Corb Lund, Mike and the Moonpies

Thu, August 9, 2018

Doors: 5:00 pm / Show: 6:00 pm

Zoo Montana

Billings, MT

$36.00

This event is all ages

Turnpike Troubadours
Turnpike Troubadours
TURNPIKE TROUBADOURS
A Long Way from Your Heart
Roughly 3,300 people live in Okemah, Oklahoma, a town with vintage redbrick storefronts, a dive bar called the Rocky Road Tavern, a name that means “things up high” in Kickapoo, and a strange track record of birthing great American songwriters: Woody Guthrie is from Okemah. Grammy-nominee John Fullbright is, too. Evan Felker belongs on that list.
“I was born in Okemah but was raised in Wright City, a town in southeastern Oklahoma,” Felker says. “Now I live in Okemah again. The characters I write about are living in that world I grew up in––a bucolic, dirt-underneath-your-fingernails sort of world. People where I grew up are tough. It’s nice to be able to represent them in art.”
Felker is the frontman, cofounder, and primary songwriter for Turnpike Troubadours, a virtuosic band of country-rock road dogs who, on any given night of the week, will play for a much bigger crowd than the populations of Okemah and Wright City combined. Singer/guitarist Felker, fiddler Kyle Nix, steel and electric guitarist Ryan Engleman, bassist RC Edwards, drummer Gabe Pearson, and steel and accordion player Hank Early deliver punch after punch of smart rock-and-roll that sells out huge venues throughout the Midwest and South and packs legendary haunts like the Troubadour in Los Angeles.
With their highly anticipated fourth album A Long Way from Your Heart, the sextet is poised for even bigger breakthroughs. Narratives put to music are nothing new, but Felker and his bandmates have upped the ante, creating a web of unforgettable characters that show up on album after album in songs that are both catchy and musically complex: men and women with their backs against their wall, represented realistically but also imbued with dignity. “It feels like going home to see that those characters are still alive in a way that movies and literary writers have always done,” Felker says of the recurring favorites. “It feels good. There they are, all based on people that I know and love. They’re composite characters based on real people.”
A Long Way from Your Heart was produced by Grammy winner Ryan Hewitt (The Avett Brothers, Flogging Molly, Red Hot Chili Peppers). The result is a rare triumph––an album that hooks immediately but then rewards listeners willing to dig deeper. “I love what we as a band have turned into and how we treat songs,” Felker says. “That’s something we’ve grown into––adding some sort of oddly theatrical element to the musicianship to help the story along, to sum up where or who the character is to give him a little bit of landscape. It’s not just an acoustic guitar and a guy telling you what somebody’s doing.”
The band’s impressive musicianship is multifaceted: fun with time signatures via lapses into double or half time; clean, abrupt stops; stealthy fingerpicking; unassailable grooves. Felker’s warm vocals invite both closer listening and dancing––a tricky mix that he exudes naturally. Unconventional mash-ups work for Felker, who shrugs off attempts to label what
he does. “I find art in a lot of places,” he says. “I find things that aren’t considered art in a lot of people’s views of the world artful.”
A Long Way from Your Heart kicks off with a fine example of art in the unexpected. Based on the experience of folks Felker knew back home, “The Housefire” captures the devastation and hope that follows losing just about everything. Cushioned by Irish-inspired strings, the narrator’s gentleness as he loses all he’s built stands tallest. Rolling singalong “Something to Hold On To” begs for one last chance, while the sweetly sad “Old Time Feeling (Like Before)”––which Felker co-wrote with Edwards and friend Jonny Burke––fights falling back into old patterns over a lush chorus of strings led by winsome dobro.
Album standout “Pay No Rent” is an ode to Felker’s aunt Lou, who lived and owned a beloved local bar in Okemah, the Rocky Road Tavern. “She was about the only person I could go drinking with at 10 a.m. on a Tuesday,” Felker says, then laughs. “We got to be really good friends. We’d hang out a lot, fish together, cook together, drink tequila, and build a big-ass fire at her place out on Buckeye Creek. She loved that song ‘Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.’ She said, ‘If I ever die––I hope I never do, but if I do––you gotta play ‘Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain’ at my funeral.’” Lou passed away last year, and when Felker got the news, he called good friend John Fullbright, and the two got to work learning the song. Then, the day before the funeral, the two realized Lou had asked about five other people to sing “Blue Eyes,” too. “So between noon and three in the morning, we wrote ‘Pay No Rent’ for her instead and played that,” Felker explains, laughing again. Based on an old Irish saying, the song is a gorgeous tribute.
Felker’s favorite album track, “Unrung” is a winning amble through warnings, praise, and a tinge of jealousy, all written about a good friend. “A Tornado Warning”––Felker’s other favorite––is a love song brimming with detail. Frenetic story song “The Winding Star Mountain Blues” traces the strained friendship between a stand-up guy and his wayward childhood friend to immortalize a different kind of heartbreak. Electric shuffler “The Hard Way” is a wry send-up of trying to relive youth when it’s a little too late.
Featuring nimble piano and Haggard-worthy jazz guitar licks, album closer “Sunday Morning Paper” is a nugget of hero-worshipping wit. Felker was inspired to write the song by his uncle, Ervin Felker. “He gave me my first guitar. He played in bands and was a Marine–– he’s the guy from ‘Blue Star,’” Felker says, referencing a track from the band’s 2012 release Goodbye Normal Street. Felker took the first line from one of his uncle’s songs then penned the rest to create a celebration of the giants of 70s country-rock––the elder Felker included.
The album’s sharply drawn characters and the range of challenges they face creates a tapestry that’s compelling and ultimately, inspiring. “This whole record is about resilience in the face of tragedy––tragedies of different sizes,” Felker says. “Just getting your nose down and dealing with it.”
Corb Lund
Corb Lund
“When you come from generations of ranchers and rodeo people, you can’t help but be influenced by the West,” says award winning roots country singer Corb Lund. Lund embraces his Western heritage through his music, touching on a range of cowboy themes past and present—from rough-and-tumble tales of lawless frontier saloons, to the somber realities of running a modern family ranch.

Hailing from the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, Canada, Lund is about as authentic as they come. He sings about the life that he knows and, as a result, his writing really resonates with rural audiences. Meanwhile, Lund’s traditional sound is music to classic country lovers’ ears, and has won over fans across the American West.
As Lund looks ahead to the summer of 2018, his sights are set on
performing at rodeos, fairs, and Western events where audiences will not just enjoy the music, but truly connect with the lyrics.
Backed by his longtime honkytonk band, The Hurtin’ Albertans, Lund and the boys put on a great live show and really know how to get a crowd revved up. “Like Willie Nelson before them, they bring out the shitkickers and hipsters in equal measure," writes Vegas Seven.
With 9 studio albums under his belt, multiple CCMA, Juno, and
international award nomination and wins, Lund is musical force to be reckoned with. His seventh album, “Cabin Fever” debuted at #1 on the Billboard Canadian Charts; he has 3 gold records; and his latest release, “Things That Can’t be Undone”, cemented his status as one of the best country singer/songwriters in the business.

Rolling Stone declared him one of the “10 New Country Artists You Need to Know” and NPR remarked, "The album is a high mark of a long career."

Rolling Stone Country observed Things That Can’t Be Undone, “finds Lund flirting in fresh sonic waters, while still keeping his sardonic mix of eerie lyrics and deceptively joyful vamps well intact.”

“Melodically engaging and narratively compelling, Things That Can’t Be Undone furthers the case for Corb Lund as one of the best contemporary country songwriters.” - Popmatters
Mike and the Moonpies
Mike and the Moonpies
Mike and the Moonpies
Steak Night at the Prairie Rose

When frontman Mike Harmeier sang “they don’t make ’em like they used to” at the start of Mike and the Moonpie’s last studio album (2015’s Mockingbird), it wasn’t the idle complaint of an armchair country music critic: It was a self-imposed challenge, answered by Harmeier and the rest of his band of young but stage-hardened, old-soul honky-tonkers, to do something about it.

“The idea was, if I walked into a bar with my dad or grandfather, I wanted the album to sound like the stuff that I would play on a jukebox at that bar,” says the 33-year-old songwriter, who started Mike and the Moonpies not long after moving to Austin from his native Houston a decade ago. “That’s why it had a bunch of different styles on it: there’s a Bob Seger kind of thing on there, some Randy Travis sounding stuff, a George Jones kind of thing … That was all a grand scheme that I had in my head.”

The reaction was pretty grand, too, with Rolling Stone Country picking Mockingbird as one of the genre’s best albums of the year. The accolades neatly coincided with the band’s signing with powerhouse Americana booking agency Red 11 Music, and the following year’s jam-packed double-disc Live at WinStar World Casino and Resort only offered further indisputable affirmation of Mike and the Moonpies’ hard-earned status as one of the Texas music scene’s finest real country bands since the release of their auspicious 2010 debut, The Real Country. It turns out Harmeier had something of a scheme in his head for that live album, too — but unlike Mockingbird before it, it had nothing to do with looking back. The rest of the Moonpies — guitarist Catlin Rutherford, drummer Kyle Ponder, bassist Preston Rhone, steel guitarist Zachary Moulton, and piano, organ and Wurlitzer player John Carbone — may not have known it at the time when they hit the WinStar stage, but the frontman was already laying the groundwork for their next studio album.

“Sometimes when you go into the studio, you get into a hole where everybody wants to recut their solos over and over, and I wanted to stay away from that when we made our next album. I wanted to have it where whatever happened in the moment is what would go on the record. So, the live album was my way of kind of conditioning the band for that … without me telling them.”

Harmeier laughs as he admits this, but the results — as heard on the band’s freshly minted Steak Night at the Prairie Rose (February 2018) — speak for themselves. Recorded in April at Yellow Dog Studios in Wimberley, Texas, the Moonpies’ fifth album is not only their best effort to date, but arguably the first to really nail the irresistible, good-time spark and spirit of one of Austin’s best bar bands (in any genre) in the studio.

In keeping with the “keep it in the moment” vibe of the whole record, Harmeier wrote or co-wrote all but one of the album’s 10 songs (the exception being “The Last Time” by friend Jonathan Terrell, who wrote “Damn Strait” for the Moonpies’ 2012 sophomore release The Hard Way) in the span of about a month or two, right before the week-long recording session. And although every song on the album is as unabashedly country as any fan favorite from Mockingbird or the rest of the Moonpies’ catalog (including the dozens of classic honky-tonk covers from their salad days residencies at Austin’s Hole in the Wall, White Horse, and Broken Spoke), Harmeier notes that the only “concept” he had this around was to keep the writing “simple” enough to allow the rest of the band — and producer Adam Odor — room to really go to town. “The only thing I really wanted was for the band to just have fun playing the songs, because I wanted the album to showcase the players on top of the songs that I wrote — just like the live record did.”

Not coincidentally, it was Odor who recorded, mixed, and mastered that live album, which in turn landed him the gig helming Steak Night. It was the first time since the Moonpies inception that Harmeier ever felt comfortable handing the reins completely over to someone else. “Adam and I actually met the day that he came to the WinStar to record the live record, but it was like we had already known each other for 20 years,” recalls Harmeier, who had long been an admirer of Odor’s resume both on his own and as an engineer on countless projects by famed producer Lloyd Maines (Joe Ely, Dixie Chicks).
“From it’s inception, “Steak Night” was and is a band album,” explains Odor. “No extra layers, no added studio musicians (except for the genius Mickey Raphael guesting on “The Worst Thing”), no unwarranted overthinking about what is expected. We worked out musical parts and arrangements together, we worked on instrument tones together, and we hit record on the tape machine and played it together. Some of these songs came together in a matter of 2 to 3 takes, others took many, many, different directions before landing on what you hear today. Most importantly, what you’re hearing on this album is what you’ll be seeing at each show, night after night. “
Of course, the Moonpies themselves had a lot to do with making Steak Night at the Prairie Rose special, too — as did the songs. Highlights include the opening “Road Crew,” which kicks things off at Highway Patrol-baiting speed powered by the twin-engine roar of electric twang and runaway pedal steel, and the sweepingly melodic gambler’s lament, “Beaches of Biloxi.”

“I love that era coming out of the outlaw thing and going into the more ‘contemporary country stuff,’ where the production starting getting a little bit more poppy but was still kind of dirty,” Harmeier explains. “For me, that’s when things started to get really interesting musically, and I think this whole record kind of has that ’80s thing to it — probably because there’s so much Wurlitzer all over it.” There’s also a whopping dose of twin electric/steel leads, a little Talk Box (played by guitarist Catlin Rutherford on “Things Ain’t Like They Used to Be”), a hint of Willie-worthy harmonica (courtesy of guest Mickey Raphael on the waltz “Worst Thing”), and a whole lot of humor, ranging from the nudge-nudge-wink-winkery of “Might Be Wrong”to the barbed-wire irony of “Wedding Band.”

For the record, he’s no slouch when it comes to writing earnest, either — especially when drawing from the well of first-hand experience. Much like “Mockingbird” before it, Steak Night at the Prairie Rose’s title track plays like an early chapter from Harmeier’s autobiography, this one going all the way back to his very first time playing music onstage in front of an audience at age 13.

“I grew up kind of going to the bars with my dad and my grandfather and playing the jukebox all the time, which of course is what ‘Mockingbird’ and a lot of the last record was kind of about. But then I started to take guitar lessons, and when I got to where I could pretty much play two hours worth of songs, whether it be Clint Black or Kansas, anything — that’s when my dad got me that gig playing every Wednesday night during ‘steak night’ at the Prairie Rose in Decker Prairie, Texas. So yeah, that’s all real …”
Venue Information:
Zoo Montana
2100 South Shiloh Rd.
Billings, MT, 59106
http://www.ZooMontana.org