What’s your favorite country album of all time?
With all of the great music over the years, that can be a near impossible question to answer for some people, but not me. There are hundreds of albums out there I love, and giving a top ten, or even a top five could be difficult, but the top spot is easy.
Diamonds & Gasoline by the Turnpike Troubadours is my favorite album of all time, and I don’t think that will ever change.
I remember exactly where I was when I randomly came across “7&7” for the first time. Unfamiliar with the independent, non-mainstream country scene at the time, let alone the Turnpike Troubadours, it opened my eyes to a whole new world.
I immediately began listening to the band’s more popular songs, and before too long, I was diving deeper into their music. From the first time I listened to Diamonds & Gasoline all the way through, something about the album and Turnpike resonated with me like no music had before.
And it just so happens that the greatest album of all time celebrated its 12th anniversary a couple of weeks ago, on August 31.
Released on August 31, 2010, Diamonds & Gasoline is a lyrical masterpiece backed by spectacular instrumentation, containing several of the songs that have catalyzed the Turnpike Troubadours’ rise to the top of the independent country music scene. Its all-star cast of musicians included frontman Evan Felker, Bassist R.C. Edwards, Fiddler Kyle Nix, and guitarist Ryan Engleman, all of whom are still in the band today, as well as the then drummer Giovanini Carnuccio III.
Moreover, the album was recorded with the help of the legendary Wes Sharon whose previous work had been highlighted by the likes of Gregg Allman and The Doobie Brothers. Red Dirt icon Mike McClure produced the project and contributed with instrumentation and songwriting as well, and former member John Fullbright contributed his talents to top things off.
Frontman Evan Felker, one of the greatest songwriters to ever put pen to pad, wrote six of the songs on the record by himself, co-writing “Leaving & Lonely” with Edwards, “The Funeral” with McClure, and “Every Girl” and “Evangeline” with Fullbright. R.C. Edwards also has a solo write on the album with “Kansas City Southern.”
Despite being Turnpike’s earliest available album, Diamonds & Gasoline isn’t their true debut. Technically, it is the band’s sophomore album, following their 2007 hard-to-find Bossier City. Nevertheless, their oldest available album is one of the best country albums of all time.
There is just an aura about it, and about the Turnpike Troubadours in general, that is hard to explain, yet extraordinarily palpable when lucky enough to experience it. If you haven’t taken the time to give the entire album a listen, I highly recommend doing so. Check out the tracklist below, and my favorite lyrics from each song.
The first track on the album, “Every Girl” is also the first song of the band’s live show. With the anticipation building before a Turnpike show, the crowd always goes wild when they come on stage, the first guitar is strummed, and…
“Well she was born in the mornin’, late October, San Antone / She’s every girl I’ve ever known…”
Check out what I mean in this video from their first show back after their hiatus at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa, OK back in April.
Another fan favorite, and a personal favorite of mine, 7&7 is one of the most classic Turnpike tunes out there:
“Well, that old scene is always coming to me, I
I see you standing with your husband and your child
And you’re a picture of strength and grace and beauty
And me, I’m just a fool in a supermarket aisle
Well I, well, I know “Hello” would surely end up awkward
I never had the knack for talkin’ anyway
And you’re not the kind for bendin’ over backwards
Smile and turn my shopping cart around and walk away
And ain’t it strange?”
Perhaps the most underrated song in the band’s whole catalog, in my opinion, “1968” is a perfect example of Felker’s songwriting expertise. A master of imagery and descriptive lyricism, Felker’s first verse in this one will conjure up a detailed image in your mind, like a music video in your head.
“There ain’t a thing in the world to take me back
Like a dark-haired girl in a Cadillac
On Main Street of an old forgotten town
And sunlight shines in fine white lines
On weathered stores with open signs
They may as well just close ’em down”
“Down on Washington”
“Well the everyday
It gets in the way
Of all the things that we could be
Don’t ya understand?
That I’m an honest man
But I would steal you in a heartbeat if the choice were up to me”
“Kansas City Southern”
“And we laughed at the moonlight
I said “goodbye” in the gray light of dawn
Yes the girl of my dreams
Each and every night, it seems
Is the one that I hold in my arms”
“Whole Damn Town”
“Well, your worn out favorite pair of jeans
Oh, I remember everything
They were things I’d grown accustomed to
The whole damn town’s in love with you”
“Leaving & Lonely”
“And it might have been the whiskey
It might have been the wine
It might have been the moonshine
In her eyes
And it might have been bad luck
It might have been love
Or maybe just a good time
It probably was”
“But Jimmy looked at Mama, Mama just looked down
She said, ‘Why’s it take a funeral, boy, to bring you back to town?’”
“Diamonds & Gasoline”
The title track, and best song, off of the greatest album of all time.
There aren’t really words to accurately describe this one, so just let the music do its thing.
“Lord, I love you
I wish you only knew
Well I wish you had a clue
I wish you had a clue, you know
But I’m stuck here in Tulsa
With my Oklahoma blues
With a pair of concrete shoes
That got me sinking pretty low
And I would buy for you a diamond or myself some gasoline
If I can’t afford you, darlin’, then I can’t afford to dream
And is it time I should be moving? Is it time I settle down?
Will I sit still, or will I feel the wheels a-spinnin’ ’round?”
“On a greyhound bound for Shreveport I’ve been too long in my seat
Well, I stopped off in a no-name town to grab a bite to eat
And the ceiling fans, they hummed above a screened-in patio
Crawfish hotter than a chimney fire, the beer was cheap and cold
And the bar maid smiled that kind of smile that knocked me off my stool
Said, ‘Hang around, I’ll show you things they don’t teach in school’”
“So beautiful that words cannot define
Sweeter than the Lord’s communion wine
Evangeline, can’t you see I’m sorry?
Can’t you hear my tears ringing through the night?
I wait in hell between these bedsheets
And pray to God for morning light”
“Long Hot Summer Day”
A cover of folk legend John Hartford, “Long Hot Summer Day” is a catchy anthem that has become Turnpike’s most popular song of all time.
So much so that several other popular bands like Flatland Cavalry, Shane Smith & the Saints, and many more frequently play it in their live sets as well.
“Well I got me a gal in Pekin
She’s a good ole’ gal, okay
Oh she’s sittin’ there waitin’ by a window fan
On a long hot summer day
For every day I’m workin’ on the Illinois River
Get a half-a-day off with pay
Ole’ tow boat pickin’ up barges
On a long hot summer day”
Thank God the Turnpike Troubadours are playing shows again and we get to hear these incredible songs live. We may even have some new music on the way from them, if we’re lucky.
But in the meantime, keep listening to the old stuff, especially Diamonds & Gasoline. The greatest album of all time has been around for 12 years now, and it seems to get even better with time.
And how about that new limited-edition vinyl? Gorgeous…