The final taping of a season is always the setting for a blowout, and that’s what we got with the Austin City Limits debut from Turnpike Troubadours. The Oklahoma country rockers hit our stage in support of their highly acclaimed fifth LP A Long Way From Your Heart – a title that proved ironic, as there’s obviously a short distance to that organ in their devoted fans’ chests.
The Americana stars took the stage to huge applause, launching into “The Housefire,” the opener of A Long Way. The band then started mining its extensive back catalog with the rocking “Every Girl,” a song co-written by guest keyboardist John Fullbright, the danceable “Kansas City Southern” and passionate “1968,” all from the 2010 album Diamonds and Gasoline. The Troubadours then reached all the way back to their 2007 debut album, with the Cajun-flavored dancefloor filler “Bossier City,” before returning to the new album for the electric folk of “The Winding Stair Mountain Blues,” inspired by a true story from singer/songwriter Evan Felker’s Southeast Oklahoma past. After six skillet-lickers in a row, the band slowed down a tad for “Pay No Rent,” an earnest ballad in tribute to a friend of Felker who passed away. “Good Lord Lorrie” worked a similar groove to even more anthemic effect.
The red-dirt anthems continued with the widescreen rocker “A Tornado Warning.” Felker then strapped on a banjo for the folk-rocker “Gin Smoke & Lies,” its melody a clever variant on the old folk song “Shady Grove.” That led into the blazing “Before the Devil Knows We’re Dead,” which had the buzzing audience clapping along from the start. Steel guitarist Hank Early switched to a Dobro for an acoustic duet with Felker on “Diamonds and Gasoline,” much to the crowd’s delight. The band returned for a romp through “Whole Damn Town,” before the penultimate, lighter waving waltz “The Bird Hunter. The Troubadours closed the show with “Something to Hold On To,” a track co-written by Kevin Russell, beloved leader of Austin’s own Shinyribs and the Gourds. The song ended in a three-way solo frenzy from Early, lead guitarist Ryan Engleman and fiddler Kyle Nix, which made the audience go wild.
The show wasn’t quite over yet, however. As is an artist’s prerogative, the Troubadours decided to redo a few numbers, starting with “The Housefire.” The band ripped through another take on “The Winding Stair Mountain Blues” before finishing with a new version of “A Tornado Warning.” Fortunately, the audience were perfectly happy to enjoy those songs again. It was a great show and a nice way to close out the season, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs early next year as part of our Season 43 on your local PBS station.