This past week was a big one for country music on both the mainstream and independent landscapes. In the span of a few days, we received news that the return of a beloved red dirt band may be on the horizon, a Texas boy turned Nashville up-and-comer is back with a new song, a Bakersfield crooner reappears with an album of classic covers, and country radio’s rising star has released his latest single.
Evan Felker Finds Sobriety and Is Focused on Songwriting
Just hours before the upcoming book Red Dirt: Roots Music, Born in Oklahoma, Raised In Texas, at Home Anywhere was to be sent to publishing, Josh Crutchmer received an intriguing phone call that led to a chat with Turnpike Troubadours frontman Evan Felker. What came out of that interview was the news every red dirt country fan has been waiting for. Evan Felker is sober and ready to make new music.
In May of 2019, the Turnpike Troubadours went on an indefinite hiatus, which was largely speculated to have been caused by Felker’s struggles with addiction. Since then, Felker has kept the lowest of low profiles on his road to recovery. It was not until May of this year that Felker reappeared, when photographer Calvin Shofner posted a collection of photos to social media of Felker working on a Texas ranch. He looked happy and healthy, and it gave Turnpike Troubadours fans some peace of mind about his well-being.
In the interview with Crutchmer, Felker states, “The past year has been some of the best moments and best parts of my life.” The excerpt suggests Felker has regained a clear heart and mind during his time away from the road and has rediscovered the desire to make music again. Whether that is on his own or with the Turnpike Troubadours remains uncertain. Regardless, it will be something to look forward to. Congratulations, Evan.
Read an excerpt from the ‘Red Dirt’ interview with Evan Felker on Rolling Stone.
Parker McCollum’s Got the “Young Man’s Blues”
After releasing two stellar projects independently, Parker McCollum landed a record deal with Nashville’s Universal Music Group in June of last year and has since released three singles. The latest release from the Limestone Kid, “Young Man’s Blues,” is a song about the emotional challenges of leaving home for the first time. Immediately after high school, McCollum left his hometown of Conroe, Texas and headed for Austin to start his music career.
“Young Man’s Blues” is, as McCollum describes it, “Honest songwriting – no bullshit,” plain and simple. One of the best qualities of McCollum’s work is the honesty in his lyrics, and how he makes you feel like you’ve lived through his every word. The 28-year-old is on the verge of a rapid rise to stardom. He surely has the talent, so it’s only a matter of time before we see it.
Jon Pardi Sings George Strait, Tom Petty and Prince on New Covers Album
Way out of left field, Jon Pardi released an entire album of classic covers including hits from the likes of George Strait, Dwight Yoakam, Tom Petty and other country and rock and roll greats. Pardi’s Rancho Fiesta Sessions features his touring band for a one night jam session that pays homage to old time artists he admires. He covers classics like Merle Haggard’s “The Bottle Let Me Down,” George Strait’s “Marina Del Rey,” and the late Joe Diffie’s “Prop Me Up Inside The Jukebox (If I Die).” On the final two tracks, Pardi veers towards pop and rock and roll, covering Tom Petty’s “The Waiting” and doing a bold rendition of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U.” The album feels like a Friday night in a small town honky tonk, and it’s a downright good time.
Morgan Wallen Releases “7 Summers”
Morgan Wallen’s latest single “7 Summers” is the third new song anticipated to be on his upcoming sophomore album with Big Loud Records (details yet to be announced), following “This Bar” and “More Than My Hometown,” both released earlier this year. “7 Summers” was co-written with Nashville songwriters Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne, both of whom have written for numerous big name stars in mainstream country. The song finds Wallen looking back at a past relationship, wondering and hoping that his former love still thinks of him. It includes a tropical sounding rhythm guitar and an easy flowing melody that will get fans hooked on quickly.
Even though most of his music lacks traditional sounding instrumentation or the lyrical depth traditional country music listeners appreciate, there is no denying that Morgan Wallen is a massive success. Since his debut collaboration with country megastars Florida Georgia Line, Wallen has been slowly rising to the top. His debut record If I Know Me gained a lot of traction over the last year, and touring with artists like Luke Combs and releasing a well-produced cover of Jason Isbell’s “Cover Me Up” have only helped the Tennessee native become one of the biggest names in mainstream country music today.
Featured image adapted from a photo by Brad Coolidge.