Top 10 Turnpike Troubadours Songs

It’s been nearly a year now since the Turnpike Troubadours embarked on an indefinite hiatus from live shows and putting out new music. It’s heavily speculated that the band’s departure from the independent country music scene came as a result of frontman Evan Felker’s struggles with drug and alcohol addiction. In a message to their fans on social media announcing the cancellation of an entire weekend of shows, the band stated, “We ask for your prayers and support as it’s our hope that our brother receives the encouragement and help he needs.” Seven days later, they took back to the internet to announce the indefinite hiatus.

Fast forward to today – if you look at the band’s social media posts where the comment sections aren’t blocked, it’s quite overwhelming to see the abundance of comments and messages of support. From fans recalling the last show they saw live, to people wishing Felker a happy birthday and well wishes, one thing is for certain. Turnpike Troubadours are dearly missed in country music.

One of the most appealing things about Turnpike Troubadours is the scope of audience they are able to reach. Country purists are often resistant to new music, trends, groups, and basically anything in today’s age of country music. However, there are a handful of groups like Turnpike Troubadours that bring those folks their old time country music peace of mind while also captivating millennial and modern crowds. Based out of Oklahoma, Turnpike Troubadours make music that connects with everyone. Until one of the most beloved red dirt bands comes back into the fold, we can only listen to and appreciate what they have given country music fans so far. So for now, here is a look at my list of the Top 10 Turnpike Troubadours Songs.

Featured image from Turnpike’s website.

Honorable Mentions

“Down Here”

Album: The Turnpike Troubadours

“Down Here” sends one of the best messages the Turnpike Troubadours have to offer. The band members are essentially singing to a good friend who has tested his luck in a big city but failed to succeed. The narrators remind their friend that they’ll always have his back and there will always be a place for him in their hometown.

“Long Drive Home”

Album: The Turnpike Troubadours

The line “They all wanna be Hank Williams / They don’t wanna have to die” alone put this song in contention for a Top 10 spot. I’ve also always thought “Long Drive Home” would be the perfect song to end a live set.

10. “Unrung”

Album: A Long Way From Your Heart

“Unrung” can be considered one of the anchors of Turnpike’s most recent record A Long Way From Your Heart (2017). The narrator wants to warn his friend about a younger girl he is falling for, but ultimately refrains from doing so in order to let his friend make a mistake and learn from it. The writing on “Unrung” serves more than just a lesson to alert your friends about a troublesome girl, it teaches you that sometimes there is no going back, you have to make mistakes to learn and “the bell can’t be unrung.”

9. “Wrecked”

Album: Goodbye Normal Street

Let’s be honest. Who doesn’t love a good breakup song? “Wrecked” is exactly that. Evan Felker recalls the excitement and youth of a past relationship in which he ultimately gets his heart broken and has to “salvage what [he] may when [she’s] gone.”

8. “Diamonds & Gasoline”

Album: Diamonds & Gasoline

One of the best things about the Turnpike Troubadours is Evan Felker and R.C. Edwards’ songwriting ability. There is a youthful essense in the lyrics to “Diamonds & Gasoline,” but the words also come along with sincere sense of pain and honesty, making them highly relatable for listeners. “Diamonds & Gasoline” is a surefire Turnpike Troubadours acoustic classic.

7. “The Bird Hunters”

Album: The Turnpike Troubadours

What do soaring fiddles, failed romances, lifelong friends, and hunting dogs have in common? They are all signature elements of a perfect Turnpike tune. “The Bird Hunters” tells a tale as old as time. A man moves to the city from his small town in the country only to have the girl he moved there with curse him back to where he came from. The verses in this song depict bird hunting in Cherokee County with the narrator’s longtime friend Danny, and the chorus is the argument the narrator has with his girlfriend in Tulsa that ultimately triggers his move back to his hometown.

6. “Gin, Smoke, Lies”

Album: Goodbye Normal Street

“Gin, Smoke, Lies” is an undeniable jam, plain and simple. It’s full of powerful drums, steady banjo, and rhythmic fiddle. All the elements bring out powerful emotions of sorrow, as the song follows a man who speculates his wife is cheating on him after she is continually staying out late and coming home smelling of “cheap perfume, gin, smoke, and lies.”

5. “Every Girl”

Album: Diamonds & Gasoline

If the Turnpike Troubadours have a hit that never was, it would be “Every Girl.” Much like the breakup songs people love, a part of everyone yearns for a good love song. That doesn’t mean a sappy radio tune meant just for chart numbers, it means a love song that has sustenance and real meaning that can trace its roots to the essence of being human. “Every Girl” is every bit promising as it is self-absorbing, as listeners can picture who this song is about for them.

4. “The Housefire”

Album: A Long Way From Your Heart

As Turnpike’s principal songwriters, Felker and Edwards are known for developing characters and connecting details about them in multiple songs. In “The Housefire,” Lorrie, from the hit song “Good Lord Lorrie,” is mentioned twice. Here, she has settled down and has a family that escapes their burning house. Another recurring character is the narrator. The narrator of “The Housefire” and “The Bird Hunters” have some common parallels: the Auto 5 Browning shotgun that’s retrieved from the burning house is the same as the one used in “The Bird Hunters,” and the old logging roads are mentioned in both songs. “The Housefire” is just one example of the incredible detail Felker and Edwards frequently use to give listeners the ability to connect the dots and interpret the songs with their imaginations.

3. “Pay No Rent”

Album: A Long Way From Your Heart

The high point of 2017’s A Long Way From Your Heart was the touching tribute to Felker’s late Aunt Lou, who died in 2016 after battling cancer. Rather than sulking in the loss of a loved one, “Pay No Rent” is about recalling the favorite memories of someone. The story behind the writing process of this song is touching and moving, and the vivid details and storytelling make it even better. “Pay No Rent” is heartfelt, loving, gentle, and solidifies Evan Felker as the modern day Red Dirt Shakespeare. If there is any Turnpike Troubadours track that comes even close to the level of the Top 2, it’s “Pay No Rent.”

2. “7 & 7”

Album: Diamonds & Gasoline

Based on its title, it’s easy to tab this track as a checklist drinking song by a mainstream Nashville artist. A couple listens through and “7 & 7” turns into a song about so much more. It unfolds into a story about self-reflection and shows the remarkable depth in Felker’s songwriting. He utilizes real life situations, like awkwardly running into an ex at the grocery store, to emphasize the importance of self-awareness and being able to perceive oneself through the eyes of others.

1. “Good Lord Lorrie”

Album: Goodbye Normal Street

To round out my Top 10 Turnpike Troubadours Songs, I had to choose the song that introduced me to them. It’s the first glimpse into a deep history that the “Lorrie” character has with the band. “Good Lord Lorrie” follows along as Lorrie is swept away from her hometown in Southwest Arkansas by a rollicking narrator. The roller coaster relationship inevitably ends in disaster. Aside from just being a great story to follow, the lyrics in “Good Lord Lorrie” capture heart-rendering moments throughout the relationship that make you develop feelings about people that are not even real, making your imagination run as you picture in your head what Felker sings about. The opening lines turn Lorrie into a real person when Felker sings “Lorrie lit a cigarette and smiled and waved the smoke out of her face / With her black hair brown from the summer sun green eyes looked around the place.” “Good Lord Lorrie” is one of many instances where we get to follow her saga throughout the Turnpike Troubadours discography, and it’s fascinating to follow along in her character development.

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