New Years Eve marked 19 months since May 31, 2019 when Turnpike came out on Instagram and announced their indefinite hiatus. Less than a year later all hell broke loose across the world, and I think it’s safe to say everyone wishes there could have been new Turnpike music to get us through 2020.
Despite all of the negatives that have come with 2020, one big positive is that Evan Felker has found sobriety and rekindled his relationship with his wife Staci Nelson. Selfishly, I hope this eventually leads to more Turnpike music at some point. But most of all we need to be happy that Felker is happy and doing well, and be grateful for all that he and Turnpike have given us.
While no one will ever be able to compare, there are some bands and artists out there that are making similar music, and if you liked Turnpike, you’ll probably like some of their stuff too. Here are some of my favorites.
Shane Smith & the Saints
The Austin, TX based band has drawn comparisons to Turnpike throughout their career, mainly because they use a fiddle as prominently as Turnpike did. The band was opening for Turnpike when they played outside of Texas for the first time, and credit the boys from Tahlequah as a large influence on their career.
“Oklahoma City” – Hail Mary (2019)
At a show in Steamboat Springs, Colorado in early 2020, Shane Smith even dedicated this song to the Turnpike Troubadours for all they had done to help them throughout their career.
“Suzannah” – Geronimo (2015)
“Cocaine Habit” ft. Ryan Engleman – Coast (2013)
In this song off of their debut album, Shane Smith & the Saints are joined by Turnpike guitarist Ryan Engleman.
Kyle Nix has spent most of his career playing fiddle for the Turnpike Troubadours, but when the band announced their hiatus, Nix decided he’d release a solo album. The Perry, Oklahoma native grew up around music and is recognized as one of the best fiddlers out there, but he was able to showcase his songwriting and vocalist talents as well with the release of his album Lightning on the Mountain & Other Short Stories back in June.
The backing band on this album is even made up of some of other Turnpike members too. Unfortunately Nix’s inability to tour on his new record due to COVID has been a large set back for him, but hopefully he will continue to make music for us in some capacity.
“Lighting on the Mountain” – Lightning on the Mountain & Other Short Stories (2020)
“Shelby ‘65” – Lightning on the Mountain & Other Short Stories (2020)
“Blue Eyes” – Lightning on the Mountain & Other Short Stories (2020)
Jason Boland & the Stragglers
Another Oklahoma band, Jason Boland & the Stragglers got their start about a decade before Turnpike. Having pioneered Red Dirt music and contributed to its rise in popularity throughout the 2000s, they’re a pretty legendary Red Dirt band in their own right, and even helped pave the way for bands like Turnpike. Together the two bands have put on the Medicine Stone Festival annually in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.
“Somewhere Down in Texas” – Pearl Snaps (1999)
“I Don’t Deserve You” ft. Sunny Sweeney – Hard Times Are Relative (2018)
“Comal County Blue” – Comal County Blue (2008)
John Fullbright is an Okemah, Oklahoma native and another legend on the Red Dirt scene. Before beginning his solo career, though, Fulbright spent time playing with Mike McClure, and most importantly, the Turnpike Troubadours. Despite splitting from the band pretty early on, Fulbright has been a co-writer on Turnpike songs “Pay No Rent,” “Every Girl,” “Evangeline,” and “Time of Day.”
Fulbright has released two solo albums and a live album, but has now shifted his focus to producing. He produced American Aquarium’s 2018 album Things Change.
“Satan and St. Paul” – From the Ground Up (2012)
“High Road” – Songs (2014)
“Jericho” – From the Ground Up (2012)
Reckless Kelly started in Oregon before they relocated to Austin, TX at the beginning of 1997. Band founders Willy and Cody Braun are part of the Braun family that has done so much for the Red Dirt genre over the years. The band has been making great music since their debut album Millican was released in 1999, and released an incredible double album American Jackpot / American Girls back in May.
“I Only See You With My Eyes Closed” – North American Jackpot / American Girls (2020)
“Lonesome on My Own” – North American Jackpot / American Girls (2020)
Founded by Micky Braun and Gary Braun, Micky & the Motorcars has its origins in Idaho but are based in Austin, TX. Getting their start a few years later than their brothers in Reckless Kelly, Micky & the Motorcars released their first of six albums, Ain’t in It for the Money, in 2004, and have also released two live albums over the years. With their brothers from Reckless Kelly, they host the Braun Brothers Reunion in Challis, Idaho, bringing numerous Red Dirt acts to the stage.
“Once in a Lifetime Girl” – Hearts from Above (2014)
“Rodeo Girl” – Long Time Comin’ (2019)
“Rock Springs to Cheyenne” – Careless (2007)
Mike and the Moonpies
A super underrated band, Mike and the Moonpies formed in 2007 and released their debut album in 2010, a similar timeline to Turnpike’s beginnings. Another Austin based band, they have a deep catalog of music any Turnpike fan, or reasonable country music fan for that matter, should check out.
“You Look Good in Neon” – Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold (2019)
“Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em” – Mockingbird (2015)
“Beaches of Biloxi” – Steak Night at the Prairie Rose (2018)
Flatland Cavalry has been one of the best acts on the Texas/Red Dirt scene over the last few years. Thanks to their fiddle-heavy music and superb lyricism from frontman Cleto Cordero, the Lubbock, TX based band has received some comparisons to the great Turnpike Troubadours. While I definitely wouldn’t go as far as to say they can fill the void Turnpike has left (because no one can), they may still be the next big act on that scene. These guys are the real deal.
“No Shade of Green” – Come May EP (2015)
This Flatland tune is actually based off of an experience Cleto Cordero and his buddy Roy Johnson had at a Turnpike Troubadours concert during Chilifest in College Station, Texas. The boys noticed a good looking girl dancing on a cooler while Turnpike played “Long Hot Summer Day,” and Cordero wrote “No Shade of Green on their ride home.
“Living by Moonlight” – Homeland Insecurity (2019)
“Sober Heart of Mine” (2019)
There will never be another Turnpike Troubadours, but at least there are tons of other good bands out there for us. If Turnpike ever does make a comeback, though, I will be spending a whole lot of money to see that first show back.
In the meantime, these other great bands will have to do.