Turnpike Troubadours Finally Release ‘A Cat In The Rain,’ Their First Album In Nearly Six Years, And All Is Right With The World

Turnpike Troubadours country music
Turnpike Troubadours/Youtube

Has there ever been an album more highly anticipated, or at least more essential to the ever-evolving ethos of country music, than the Turnpike Troubadours’ brand new record A Cat in the Rain?

It’s been nearly six years since the release of their last album A Long Way from Your Heart, and today that 2,134 day streak has come to an end.

Recorded with the help of producer Shooter Jennings at the fabled F.A.M.E. Studios in Muscle Shoals, AL and wrapped up in Los Angeles, A Cat in the Rain features 10 potent tracks – eight originals and two covers – that together make a cohesive project for the ages.

At surface level, A Cat in the Rain is an incredible country music record with catchy choruses and a unique sound that will have everyone humming along in no time.

If you listen to it with a bit more intent, you’ll likely catch on to the next level of lyricism and idiosyncratic instrumentation with the prominent usage of fiddle and harmonica that have become synonymous with Turnpike’s music over the years.

This album has something for everybody in it, but as is with most of Evan Felker’s songwriting and Turnpike music, you’ll get the most out of it if you peel back that first layer.

Full of descriptive imagery, metaphors, and allegorical storytelling, each track on this record, even the covers, take on more than one meaning and represent an array of heavy subjects that have drawn heavy on the Turnpike Troubadours over the years.

I’ll assume most everyone reading this knows the details surrounding Turnpike’s rise within the industry, their catastrophic downfall, and the mysterious hiatus that spanned several years and left fans worried they may never hear new Turnpike Troubadours music.

That is until their triumphant return, of course, and the legendary comeback we are witnessing today.

Now, with a heater of an album in front of us, we finally have closure, and it’s safe to say that Turnpike is back, and quite literally better than ever. The proof is in the music – Check it out here:

1. “Mean Old Sun”

Released back in May as the album’s lead single, “Mean Old Sun” was an emphatic return to new music for the Turnpike Troubadours, and set the tone for the record early. Right off the bat, frontman Evan Felker comes out swingin’ with a poignant verse that draws cleverly on the band’s past yet embodies an optimistic outlook on their future. With symbolic lyricism and vivid imagery, Felker does what he does best, and paints an image of a time and place, inviting us all to join him in our imagination.

“Empty promises I’ve given
Hollow heart beats in my chest
And every word of sterling silver
Stirred butterflies beneath your breast

Still untouched by ties a-binding
Going where the gulf breeze blows
No ring of gold around your finger
No ring of brass run through my nose”

2. “Brought Me”

Given context, “Brought Me” is much more than a cleverly penned love song, it’s an endearing story of redemption and second chances that latently encompasses much of what the Turnpike Troubadours, and specifically Evan Felker, have endured over the last several years. It represents a new beginning for the Turnpike Troubadours, all while reassuring fans that the signature sound we all have grown to love is still very much intact:

“You’ve torn the place asunder
And you’ve left the party early
Looked at me with tears
As if a lost and lonely child

Your status suits you well
But do not think that you can fool me
This polish and reserve
Barely hides that you are wild”

3. “Lucille”

The album’s third track ominously introduces a new character to Evan Felker’s songwriting world. Lucille, perhaps an ex-flame of the narrator’s, seems as if she could share a few characteristics with another recurring female character throughout the band’s catalog…

“And you’re still just the same, except for your name
I lost all my half hearted fortune and fame
Each night I would find as if I designed
Your bonfire that burned in the back of my mind

Lucille, in the flickering light
The moon on your shoulders a burl handle wide
Lucille, glad you’re doing alright
But I wonder who’s keeping the baby tonight”

4. “Chipping Mill”

Written by bassist and founding Member R.C. Edwards, alongside Oklahoma up-and-comer and frequent collaborator Lance Roark, “Chipping Mill” is a cleverly penned tune with sonically masterful instrumentation that catches the essence of Turnpike’s beloved sound. With a prominent fiddle from Kyle Nix backing Felker’s iconic vocals, the song traverses lyrically through six distinct verses, all of which end in a uniform exclamation – “I always kept the best for you, I always kept the best for you.”

The repetition adds emphasis to the narrator’s sorrowful disposition, seemingly reminiscing on a ruined relationship with something or someone for whom they care deeply. That is my initial interpretation, at least, but as with all Turnpike Troubadours songs, they are layers to these things, and the underlying meaning is likely more complex. Given the band’s last few years, it’s easy for this song to take on meaning in the context of their hiatus as well.

“Lines got distorted, but the message is the same
We were howling at a ghost without a name
Despite what’s reported, my love for you remains
I always kept the best for you, I always kept the best for you

Well I ran my heart through a chipping mill
Sold my soul for rock ‘n’ roll
Gave away all that I could steal
I always kept the best for you”

5. “The Rut”

From the outside looking in, “The Run” comes off as an extremely introspective cowboy ballad that lightheartedly considers Felker’s storied relationship with alcohol and the mindset that once contributed to Turnpike’s downfall but has since brought the band to greater heights. This one hits hard.

“It’s been ten years since I first came to the mountains with my father
A half pint in each saddle bag and stars in both my eyes
I don’t miss the taste of liquor, or really anything about it
But the temporary shelter was a welcomed compromise

Oh friend, I’m gonna ride out of the rut I’m in
A little elevation and an open ended prayer
Holding out for more than breaking even
I come back to the mountains and they’re all still standing there”

6. “A Cat in the Rain”

Evan Felker has mentioned his affection for the literary work of Ernest Hemingway before, and at times, his short story style songwriting has drawn Hemingway-like comparisons. Well, I don’t know how strong the connection actually is between this song, this album, and the legendary American author, but the whole project seems to draw inspiration from Hemingway’s 1925 work of the same name that uses a cat in the rain as a metaphor to deal with themes of love, compassion, and restlessness in one’s own life.

“You can try to put the past behind
It’s on your clothes like burning pine
Is it gin or turpentine, you keep in your canteen?
If pressure makes a diamond babe I still might come out clean”

7. “Black Sky”

Originally released by the Ozark Mountain Daredevils in 1973 on their self-titled debut record, “Black Sky” is an underrated, harmonica heavy track that plays straight into Turnpike’s sonic preferences and makes for one awesome cover.

8. “East Side Love Song (Bottoms Up)

If you’re a big Turnpike fan, there’s a solid chance you’ve already heard this song. Evan Felker originally recorded this solo back in 2013 for a compilation record titled Sounds from the Alley, Vol. III. The lyrics are iconic, and prove the uncanny longevity in Evan Felker’s words. But when you throw the full band in the mix, this classic takes on a whole new life, much like the Turnpike Troubadours have done throughout this entire album.

“You’re such a sight in the dashboard light
You’re an old forgotten photograph in shades of black and white
Don’t it feel alright? Well, we got all night
Ah your daddy’s gone to Kingston bettin’ on a rooster fight”

9. “Three More Days”

While it’s no secret that life on the road took its toll on the band pre-hiatus, this track seems to be a light hearted look back on those days positioned as an anthem for every traveling musician in love.

“Break it down take it to the next town
I like the company but the drive’s too long
Learn to love living my life from 11-2
Three more days on the road now honey
God help me make it home to you”

10. “Won’t You Give Me One More Chance”

Well if the Turnpike Troubadours are going to include a cover, it would make sense that the song is originally by Felker’s songwriting hero. The second cover and final track on the record, “Won’t You Give Me One More Chance” was included on the legendary Texas Troubadour Jerry Jeff Walker’s 1976 It’s a Good Night for Singin’ record. And it fits perfectly within this perfect album.

So, take a second to smell the roses here, folks. The Turnpike Troubadours have released a new album that captures the essence of their signature sound yet builds on their storied past in a way that only strengthens their mystique and lays the foundation for something bigger than any of us could have ever expected for these Okies.

These guys are superstars, and A Cat in the Rain is their highly anticipated and long awaited rebirth that proves it.

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock