It’s an Okie invasion at Tulsa’s historic Brady Theater when the Turnpike Troubadours bring their toe-tapping brand of red dirt inspired Americana to town on March 8. The popularity of this hard working band has grown steadily over the years as the Troubadours have gained a large and loyal following from near constant touring, winning fans over one show at a time. Three solid albums, including 2012’s critically acclaimed Goodbye Normal Street, and outstanding live shows have translated into sold-out performances at celebrated venues like Tulsa’s Cain’s Ballroom and Austin’s Antone’s. This month’s stop in T-town boasts support performances from singer songwriter Chris Knight and Grammy-nominated Oklahoma native, John Fullbright, himself a former member of the band.
These Oklahoma boys make music that swings, rocks and occasionally breaks your heart. “We’ve never been a straight up red dirt or Texas Country band,” Troubadours’ bass player RC Edwards told me in an interview this fall. “We play music the only way we know how. We’ve never tried to sound like anyone.” The band’s sound reflects its rural roots. “Old school country and old-timey music and bluegrass music is definitely the core of where we come from,” Edwards explained.
Although the band honed its chops and polished its tunes in the honky tonks and bars of small town Middle America, the Troubadours’ music strikes a chord with audiences well beyond the heartland. Folks on both coasts and even in Europe easily connect with the songs. “People are people wherever you go,” Edwards commented. “There are small town people wherever you go. They might have a different accent, but they have close to the same lifestyle...That’s who we really relate to. Even if people live in the city, they might have come from a small town or their family did.”
While the Troubadours alone are reason enough to head to the Brady Theater, the addition of Chris Knight and John Fullbright to the evening’s bill is like an overflowing ladle of your grandmother’s gravy. Knight, with fifteen years on the road and 8 albums to his name, is a veteran performer whose songwriting style is often compared to legends like Steve Earl and Knight’s own lyrical hero, John Prine. While he has had a successful solo career performing his own music, country musicians like Randy Travis and Montgomery Gentry have also covered Knight’s songs.
Last year was a huge one for Beardon, OK-born John Fullbright. Not quite a quarter of a century old, the talented singer songwriter found himself performing in front of a packed audience at the 55th Grammy Awards Ceremony in February of 2013. His latest release, From The Ground Up, had received a nomination in the “Best Americana Album” category. While it did not win the award (it had stiff competition from the likes of Mumford & Sons and the Avett Brothers), the nomination and the album brought the talented musician some much-deserved national attention. An accomplished multi-instrumentalist, Fullbright is a wiz on the accordion, piano, harmonica, and guitar. He also writes beautiful lyrics and lovely melodies, delivering his songs with soulful and emotive vocals. Like his former Troubadours band mates, Fullbright is no stranger to small-town USA in all its bucolic glory and gothic horror potential. You can hear it in his songs.
As you patiently wait for spring to arrive in the Sooner State, while away the last few days of winter in the company of some of Oklahoma’s best homegrown. This will be a Midwestern tour de force you don’t want to miss. For more information on this show and the entire Brady lineup, click here.
-With thanks to The Pulse Magazine.