There is a reason the indefinite hiatus of the vaunted Turnpike Troubadours hit fans so hard, almost like losing a relative. The way you leaned on the band’s music to make it through hard times, and celebrate the good ones, it’s tough to fathom a world without the voice and songs of Evan Felker backed by the boys from Oklahoma adding color to important moments in your life. The fact they were at the height of their creative powers when they went under the mothballs is especially difficult to stomach.
That is why any morsel of new music feels like such a blessing and relief, no matter what the circumstances. Some fans have just been hanging on Facebook and Twitter over the last few months, hitting their refresh buttons, waiting on any word, any sign of a Turnpike Troubadours revival. And though this new song from Evan Felker was written and recorded in April of 2019 before the hiatus was in full force, and it doesn’t include the Turnpike Troubadours behind him, it feels so good to hear that voice again, no matter the situation, and no matter what is being sung.
Lucky for us though, “Whiskey in Your Water” finds Evan Felker in top writing and singing form, picking right up where he left off, which is setting human emotions often too tough to articulate in words, to near perfect music and rhyme. Even more fulfilling, “Whiskey In Your Water” feels patently relevant to the current situation surrounding Felker. According to producer Bruce Robison, Evan was tweaking the words to the song right up to when they hit “record,” and when the wheels on the Turnpike bus were already starting to wobble.
“Never know just what you’re thinkin’, when you look at me that way. Is there whiskey in your water?” Evan sings, which could be interpreted numerous ways from Evan Felker’s point-of-view. Felker even makes reference to Idaho as a place where “people still love us for our faults” when some rumors about Evan’s whereabouts after the hiatus have connected him to the Potato state.
Though it would have been great to hear the Turnpike Troubadours backing Felker on this song, The Next Waltz Band on this track does more than ample justice, and singer and fiddle player Carrie Rodriguez really adds that special something to make this song a unique and enjoyable entry into the Evan Felker canon. Bruce Robison set up a music making operation on his property in Lockhart, TX just south of Austin, and releases the results under “The Next Waltz” brand to put a boost behind those unheralded artists from the Austin area that shows like Austin City Limits used to be in the care of. Carrie Rodriquez is one of those career Austinites who deserves more attention that what she receives.
Nothing will ever replace the magic that the Turnpike Troubadours sow in the studio and on stage. That is why there is such heartbreak surrounding the uncertainty of the band’s future. But “Whiskey In You Water” really feels both familiar and fresh, and incredibly welcome, even if tinged with the trepidation that we may not hear from Evan Felker or the Turnpike Troubadours again for a good while.