Turnpike Troubadours Song Tournament: Day II

TurnpikeBracketUpdate1by: Thomas D. Mooney & Ryan Heape
Editor-in-Chief & Associate Editor

Welcome to the Sweet Sixteen. Below, you’ll find the results and commentary on the first round. We’ll post the results of the next round  tomorrow. For more information on how exactly we came to these results, check our Day I post here.


1)Good Lord Lorrie 23 Votes
8) Three Rivers Song–2 Votes

4) Come November 10 Votes
5) Easton & Main 15 Votes

3) Bossier City 17 Votes
6) The Shape 8 Votes

2) 1968 18 Votes
7) Evangeline 7 Votes

Goodbye Normal Street. Not exactly. The sole Normal Street song, the heavily favored “Good Lord Lorrie” took care of business in round one against “Three Rivers Song”–which somehow just doesn’t seem fair. The fact that “Three Rivers Song” ended up an 8 seed is at no fault of its’ own. It’s just, well, what would you place there instead? “Three Rivers Song” is undoubtedly Turnpike at their most unpolished, unfiltered, and innocent. There’s something charming about Felker essentially strumming along with minimal instrumentation behind his campfire vocals. But when it comes down to it, its “Good Lord Lorrie.”

The closest match-up of Normal Street, as expected came between “Come November” and “Easton & Main.” For most of us, this was our first introduction to Turnpike Troubadours. In many ways, Felker and company took two of country music’s cliché subjects: being a broke twenty-something year-old calling home and falling love with a girl from Tulsa, Okla. They redefine the two though, landing lines such as “But I gave up on the 9 to 5. Gave up on security. Well, give up on anything Darling as long as you don’t give up on me” (“Come November”) and “Well we drove up to the city on an autumn Saturday night. And damn, that girl looked pretty in the artificial moonlight.”

Enter “Bossier City.” Welcome to Felker storytelling 101. We always fall in love with Felker’s characters in these four-minute short stories. They’re people we went to high school or met in college. With “Bossier City,” Felker and company found sparked the country-roots-rock revolution. It’s Garth Brooks and Old Crow Medicine Show.

“There ain’t a thing in the world that can take me back like a dark-haired girl and a Cadillac.” The line that sparked a rise in hair dye and Cadillac sales and rentals across the South. It’s a charming line, but the key to “1068” comes in its closing moments, when Felker emotionally sings “And when the rounds were fired that April, you were on the balcony. When 10,000 teardrops hit the ground in Memphis, Tenn.”

-Thomas D. Mooney

Morgan Street

1) Whole Damn Town 23 Votes 
8) Solid Ground 2 Votes

4) Call a Spade a Spade 11 Votes
5) Empty As a Drum 14 Votes

3) The Funeral 19 Votes
6) Quit While I’m Ahead 6 Votes

2) Long Hot Summer Days 18 Votes
7) Morgan Street 7 Votes

I’ll admit, I’m thoroughly surprised “Solid Ground” ended up an 8 seed. That just shows the strength of Turnpike Troubadours. As Felker suggested in a Galleywinter interview a few years back, “Don’t date the prettiest girl in town; if you must, don’t lose her. If she leaves you, I suggest relocating.” With “Whole Damn Town,” every little thing–the words, Kyle Nix’s raging fiddle, Ryan Engleman’s sharp, piercing guitar, the thumping bass of Rooster Edwards–it’s just building to one single moment: “Well your worn out favorite pair of jeans!” You’re not going to find a better single moment in a Turnpike song (OK, it’s debatable, but just go with it). The raw emotion in Felker’s voice in that flash, holy fuck. Get that man a bottle of whiskey.

Did Evan Felker write “Empty As a Drum” on a series of napkins? Please say yes. That would make it just so much better. That’s at least how I picture the song being written. Everyone’s been in that moment of desperation Felker is feeling throughout “Empty As a Drum.” Don’t deny it, you too have felt “too old to feel this dumb.” I’m going to go ahead and say it though. I think “Call a Spade a Spade” is technically the better song. It’s filled with so many clever lines such as “You’ve got a look that could drop me dead here on the floor,” “Well, to call the whole thing stupid seems so sorely understated (alliteration!!!),” “Well you gotta try awful hard to keep it hid. You’ve got a man and I’ve been acting liking a kid, (fucking perfect)” and “You’ve got more than a tattoo up your sleeve.” And I’ve not even mentioned I’m a sucker for well sung duets, which of course, “Call a Spade a Spade” features Jamie Wilson of The Trishas.

“The Funeral” is in my opinion Felker’s greatest moment in third-person storytelling. It’s just brilliant. Who doesn’t love the dysfunctional couple of a “counterfeit James Dean” and a “burned out Bettie Page?” 

To really understand “Long Hot Summer Days,” you’ve first have to understand the transformation it undertakes. The original, written by John Harford, was a fiddling masterpiece. It doesn’t have that Steve Earle stomp that you hear and feel in Turnpike’s rendition. It’s certainly not a bad version by any means. But rather, each version fits who’s playing it to a T. And one of my favorite moments–it’s not even that important really–but I just have to point it out. In the second verse, Felker sings 

” Well I got me a gal in Pekin,
She’s a good oh gal OK, 
Oh, she’s sitting there waiting by a winder fan,
On a long hot summer day.”

Winder fan. Not a window fan. And to be honest, I thought “Morgan Street” had the juice to make it past LHSD. The Edwards penned “Morgan Street” features some of the best–and more importantly–tasteful accordion playing you’ll ever hear.

-Thomas D. Mooney 


Easton Street

1) Every Girl 21 Votes
8) Rollin On 4 Votes

4) Southeastern Son 12 Votes
5) Gone Gone Gone 13 Votes

3) Wrecked 5 Votes
6) Shreveport 20 Votes

2) Diamonds & Gasoline 20 Votes
7) Leaving & Lonely 5 Votes

“Wrecked,” the current reigning #1 single on the Texas Music Chart, is arguably as popular now as “Every Girl” was in 2010. As a fairly by-the-numbers country song with a firm two-step beat and early-Strait steel licks, it’s more like Bossier City than anything they’ve made since. When Turnpike were here opening for Randy Rogers at the last Kalf Fry, Felker’s chorus spurred one of the loudest singalongs of the night. As it stands, however, “Wrecked” was on the business end of our biggest upset of round one. Populism has no jurisdiction here, see.

It lost convincingly to “Shreveport,” the five minute-long, accordion-happy gem found towards the end of Diamonds & Gasoline. If you’ve spent a lot of time with the Turnpike catalogue, you’ll recognize this instantly: “She said hang around I’ll show you things/They don’t teach ya in school.” Felker is at his most classically whimsical here; he tears through lyrics about scraping with cops and getting thrown in a Louisiana jail at a quick, nervous pace, like he hasn’t quite escaped his pursuers yet. Songwriters are still writing their own “Road Goes On Forever”-esque tall tales (Prison! Sexually experienced female bartenders! Southern gospel mythology!) is bothersome, if not regressive. That Felker is still writing them means only good things. His bag of lyrical tricks is seemingly bottomless, and he knows better than to take his stories too seriously. Anyway, “Wrecked” is a simple and heartfelt delight, but “Shreveport” is arguably more deserving to advance here. Nice work, you guys.

Esteemed 1-seed “Every Girl” received 4 votes against it. Mark that down for later.

In a battle of fairly good Goodbye Normal Street cuts, “Gone Gone Gone” edged “Southeastern Son” by a single vote. It makes sense because “Gone Gone Gone” features Felker’s most sweetly-sung vocal track in the tournament, and “Southeastern Son” features possible plagiarism. (Maybe not but still, #teamheape.)

-Ryan Heape

Main Street

1) 7&7 20 Votes
8) Austin to Ashes 5 Votes

4) Down on Washington 15 Votes
5) Kansas City Southern 10 Votes

3) Before the Devil Knows We’re Dead 18 Votes
6) Blue Star 7 Votes

2) Gin Smoke Lies 20 Votes
7) Angola 5 Votes

All four higher seeds advanced easily enough. (Who are the five who voted against “7&7”? You people lack any semblance of couth.) The slimmest margin came with “Down On Washington” receiving 15 votes to “Kansas City Southern”’s 10. “Kansas City Southern” has some of Kyle Nix’s best fiddle and lyrics about dancing with girls to fireworks and then getting “canned on the fifth of July.” It’s lovable. But there’s a clumsy candor to “Down On Washington” that veers it close to “7&7” territory:

Here I fear we’ve found ourselves a sticky situation.
It’s an awkward occupation disregarding right from wrong.
And you were down on Washington, dancing like the devil.
Oh and I am Just a foo, bu I have loved you all along.

Jeez, it’s almost as if Evan Felker has a troubled history with women. He’s always a good sport about it though, here giving us cheeky rhymes to distract from the vitriol brought on by profound heartbreak. And there’s something so nerdy about working the phrase “awkward occupation” into a chorus that veers it close to “oh, this is why I love this band” territory.

That we’re losing “Kansas City” and “Wrecked” on the first day of this thing speaks to the volume of tunes (pronounced chunes) Turnpike have been putting out for the past several years.

-Ryan Heape

Tomorrow’s Match-ups

Normal Street

1) Good Lord Lorrie
5) Easton & Main

3) Bossier City
2) 1968

Morgan Street

1) Whole Damn Town
4) Empty As a Drum

3) The Funeral
2) Long Hot Summer Days

Easton Street

1) Every Girl
5) Gone Gone Gone

6) Shreveport
2) Diamonds & Gasoline

Main Street

1) 7&7
4) Down on Washington

3) Before the Devil Knows We’re Dead
2) Gin Smoke Lies 


4 responses to “Turnpike Troubadours Song Tournament: Day II

  1. Pingback: Turnpike Troubadours Song Tournament: Day III | New Slang·


  3. Pingback: Turnpike Troubadours Song Tournament: Day V: The Final Four | New Slang·

  4. Pingback: Turnpike Troubadours Song Tournament: Day VI: Final | New Slang·

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