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Music

Turnpike Troubadours Tell Stories Of The Heartland On Latest Release

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Justin Voight
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When Oklahoma’s The Turnpike Troubadours released their self-titled album last fall, the record immediately climbed the charts in both the rock and country worlds. According to bassist and band co-founder RC Edwards, it was proof of the band’s ability to appeal to wide range of fans.

“We’ve kind of always straddled that line where we had the rockabilly and punk rock crowd as well as the traditional country crowd and the bluegrass crowd,” Edwards says. “So we get to see all those people mix together at our shows, and we’re lucky enough to be part of all those different scenes.”

The band did extensive touring behind the album and quickly discovered that a decade of hard work was starting pay off as they were reaching larger and larger crowds across the country.

“It seems like every time we go back to the East Coast or West Coast, we’re playing bigger rooms,” Edwards notes. “It just keeps growing every time. And it’s like that to a larger scale in Middle America. It’s fun to watch the crowds grow and see how much they have grown when you go back to them the next year or six months later.”

The rooms that the band plays in these days are mostly removed from the places the band first played, rooms Edwards calls “shady beer joints.” In those days, the group relied largely on word of mouth.

“It was a pretty slow process of grinding it out in honky-tonks,” Edwards says. “It takes off eventually.”

The band has seen its latest record become successful in terms of sales, but many of the songs have grown on the audience as well. One is “The Mercury,” which kicks off the record.

“It’s a mix of the more country songs and the more rockin’ songs,” he says. “But that one is definitely a rock, so it’s a lot of fun to play live.”

The tune that opens the latest record, “The Bird Hunters,” is a song that quickly became a fan favorite.

“It’s that fiddle intro,” Edwards says, “that big kick and then the full band comes in. It’s the way that we’ve started some live shows. It just seemed like a good way to way to start the album and set the tone for it.”

The band recorded the album in northern California on an abandoned chicken ranch, far from Oklahoma. But that didn’t mean there wasn’t part of home with the group. Edwards points to another fan favorite from the record, “Easton and Main,” a song named for the intersection in Tulsa where one finds the legendary music venue Cain’s Ballroom.

“I think I was living in Bartlesville at the time, and a friend of mine came home from Tulsa. He’d been at Cain’s that night; he’d gone to a rock show or punk show, and there was a girl in the band he was watching—some tatted up rock ‘n’ roll girl that he was just in love with,” Edwards says. “That’s what it was written about.”

The Turnpike Troubadours perform at The Cotillion Ballroom on Friday evening.

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Jedd Beaudoin is the host of Strange Currency. Follow him on Twitter @JeddBeaudoin.

To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.