Crawfish and Country Music

Thanks to cold temperatures, rain, and “ice”, the last few weeks in Austin have felt more like Seattle than Texas. Because of this, the 60-degree forecast full of sun and devoid of precipitation for this past Saturday had me excited. While the weather alone could have brightened my mood, my enthusiasm was heightened because Mother Nature was cooperating for my favorite party of the year.

turnpike-truEvery March, my fraternity puts on our “Ranch” party. Good friends, crawfish, and most importantly live country music highlight the event. While past years have boasted big name artists such as Pat Green, I was ecstatic when I heard this year’s party would be featuring one of my favorite country artists, Turnpike Troubadours. While they are still a relatively small group, they have gained momentum in the last several years, even playing the ACL Music Festival this past October. Regardless of this being the third time I would be seeing them perform in the last year, I was still looking forward to the concert.

As people flocked to the crawfish tables, Shane Smith & the Saints took the stage as the warm-up act. Although I was not familiar with their music, I was quickly impressed by their sound. Lead vocalist Shane Smith had a great voice and was accompanied by a classic Texas country sound featuring a fiddle, guitar, drums, and bass. The band recently released their first album, a feat that was over two years in the making. The album, Coast, reflects the relationships and memories made while on the road in the years leading up to the release. They have a great sound and the album is definitely worth checking out.

While I was impressed with Shane Smith & the Saints, Turnpike Troubadours finally took the stage and stole the show like they have done every time I have seen them perform. All hailing from southeastern Oklahoma, the members of Turnpike Troubadours clearly enjoy performing. Lead vocalist Evan Felker truly knows how to take over a stage and engage an audience. He writes almost all of their songs and his passion is clearly evident when he performs. Aside from turning the microphone to the crowd or joking around with other band members on stage, they sounded just like they do in recordings and delivered a great show.

FullSizeRender (1)I chose their most recent album Goodbye Normal Street as my album to analyze for the current class project. My research really allowed me to see their performance in a new light compared to past shows. While songs like “Good Lord Lorrie” and “Gin, Smoke, Lies” have been some of my favorites since they were released in 2012, my research allowed me to listen to them differently this time. For example, I read in an interview with Felker that he writes almost all of his songs about authentic life experiences and real people that have crossed his path. Knowing that Lorrie is a real person with a real story helps explain the passion Felker sings with when performing the song.

Whether at historic Gruene Hall singing on the same stage as many of country music’s biggest names, at Zilker Park for ACL, or in the front yard of a college party, every time I have heard Turnpike Troubadours perform they have delivered the same genuine and authentic performance. They are bonded by their rural roots and sincerely enjoy performing their life experiences to a crowd, regardless of who it might be.


Filed under Americana, Austin, Live Music, Texas

6 Responses to Crawfish and Country Music

  1. Shelby Conine

    Admittedly, I’d never heard of Turnpike Troubadours before going to the same event at the Sig Ep house a few weeks ago. However, watching their performance was absolutely something else. I agree that they truly seemed authentic, something that is lacking at other country concerts I’ve been to recently. They truly knew how to engage that specific audience and the laidback, comfortable vibes were perfect for college kids. A friend and I even started two-stepping in the back and some other couples joined in. It felt like a dance hall almost. I also didn’t know that they wrote a lot of their own lyrics and that makes me love them even more. In a world when most big artists lose touch because they don’t write their own music, I think Turnpike’s strong sense of self and willingness to hang on to their rural roots cements them as one of the best, authentic Texas Country bands performing right now. I’m excited to see where they’ll go and if they’ll remain the laid-back guys who aren’t too full of themselves to play on the front lawn of a frat house.

  2. Courtney Gonzalez

    I too have never really heard Turnpike Troubadours except for a couple of songs on the radio. I do however like their sound and will look into them and Shane Smith and the Saints. I think its great that they would come to the fraternity house to play a local show because they are gaining ground and becoming bigger as I saw that they played at the Austin Rodeo on Friday March the 20th. I am looking forward to reading more about them on your album analysis project. I completely agree that doing a bit of research on the artist gives you insight that you didn’t know you were missing.

  3. Justin Cole

    I also really enjoy Turnpike, and saw them at Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth last year. Their performance was great and they really energized the crowd, making it an incredibly fun atmosphere. I also happened to see Shane Smith perform the night before Ranch. I was in College Station visiting some buddies from high school and they had him play at their party that Friday night, followed by a crawfish boil the next day. While College Station is a dreadful place compared to Austin, it was still fun hanging out with friends, listening to good music, dancing, and boiling crawfish.

  4. Randle Cecil

    I hadn’t heard Turnpike Troubadours music before the party, but they definitely did a great job performing and keeping the audience engaged. They were wearing casual clothes and standing on a small stage and still gave their best performance, compared to other bands who wouldn’t dare to perform anywhere that wasn’t glamorous. They were fine with making a couple hundred college kids happy, which is why I am a fan of them now. I think that is what Texas country music is all about. Keeping things simple and giving your best performance no matter who the audience may be is really what country music is based off of.

  5. Erin McAtee

    I enjoyed reading about the Turnpike Troubadours, particularly since I haven’t really listened to them before. The style that you described reminds me of the Texas Country artists, like Roger Creager and Aaron Watson. Their Americana roots and small-town songs really connect with people in a more intimate audience, and their fans are incredibly loyal. I was able to see Aaron Watson in concert at a small café venue before I really got into country music, and it’s cool to look back and understand how great of a performer he is. He was very interactive with his audience, and I can see that Turnpike Troubadours are probably the same way. I’m excited to listen to more of their music!

  6. Keaton Schlueter

    I only just started listening to Turnpike a few months ago when my roommate introduced me to them. I would have loved to see them perform at the party but unfortunately I was out of town that weekend. Still, I think they have an awesome sound and I really admire them for coming out to perform at a college party. I don’t think there are really a whole lot of semi-famous country artists that would really go and do that, and that’s awesome that they did. My roommate went and saw them and told me they put on a fantastic show, so hopefully I’ll get to go see them the next time they come to town.

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