Turnpike Troubadours Return to California to Tell the Stories of 'A Long Way From Your Heart'

Justin Voight
Turnpike Troubadours

Tulsa-based Americana outfit hits its stride during House of Blues show in Anaheim.

Tulsa six-piece band Turnpike Troubadours returned to Southern California on Thursday after an almost 10-month absence, performing music from their 2017 album A Long Way From Your Heart, taking fans on a musical journey of American flyover country with songs of love and loss in Oklahoma and beyond.

Lead singer and guitarist Evan Felker opened the show with "The Housefire," the first track from the band's 2017 album, telling the story of a man left to pick up the pieces after the home he built for his family mysteriously burns down. Like most of their songs, Felker's lyrics are often a complicated tale of double- and triple-crossing, both of hearts and pocketbooks, and always occur on the margins of society, with Felker serving both as a central character and narrator. The colorful cast of characters often return after long absences between albums, like lifelong buddy Danny from the track "The Bird Hunters" from their 2015 self-titled album, or Lorrie, who first appeared on "Good Lord Lorrie" on their 2012 album Goodbye Normal Street as a too-hot-to-handle girlfriend, only to return on "Housefire" as Felker's wife.

Turnpike Troubadours have been at it for more than a decade and helped pioneer the modern Texas country/red dirt sound that's part honky-tonk and part Americana, with their songwriting and performance chops are on par with contemporaries Sturgill Simpson or Jason Isbell. Their Anaheim show had a respectable turnout, about 70 to 80 percent capacity of the floor for the House of Blues, which is the sweet-spot capacity for fans, who cheered on the band and sang along as they followed up "The Housefire" with "Every Girl" and "7x7," the opening tracks from their 2010 album Diamonds and Gasoline. The band is represented by Jon Folk at booking agency Red 11 Music and release music through their imprint Bossier City Records, with last year's A Long Way From Your Heart hitting an impressive No. 20 spot on the Billboard 200 and No. 3 on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart.

Mixing steel guitars and occasional vocal harmonies, Turnpike's music is best consumed live, and their Anaheim show did not disappoint, as the band rolled out some of their deep tracks like "1968" and "The Winding Stair Mountain Blues," on which Felker warns listeners "the devil is in the fine details." The group was light on banter and heavy on performance, with Felker playing the harmonica sections of "Blue Star."

For fans of roots-style American country music, Turnpike Troubadours are both accessible and easy to consume with clever, touching lyrics that celebrate ordinary people and avoid today's Nashville lyrical worship of beer-drinking, big trucks and partying. Turnpike is touring all summer, and fans will have plenty of opportunities to catch the group, including a career-highlight show Wednesday at Red Rocks in Morrison, Colorado. For a complete list of dates and to buy tickets, click here