Song Review – The Turnpike Troubadours – “Brought Me”

It’s the wide array of influences that the Turnpike Troubadours bring to bear in their music that makes their songs feel both wholly unique and keenly familiar, often conferring a warm feeling even upon the very first listen. Their new song “Brought Me” is definitely guilty of this charge. It’s country rock at its root like all Red Dirt music is. But the subtle notions of Cajun music, and more robust inflections of Celtic music arouse a host of musical erogenous zones.

Taken from their upcoming album A Cat in the Rain out August 25th, “Brought Me” is built out from the old saw, “Dance with the one that brought you.” Singer and songwriter Evan Felker expands on this notion by at times using what sounds almost like Old English vernacular in a way that imbues this song with a beauty and poetic eloquence not often employed in country music. At first it was a bit nebulous if this love song was autobiographical or a dramatization. It includes references to Tulsa where the Turnpike Troubadours first found significant support so many years ago.

A statement from Evan Felker cleared things up when he said, “It’s about our fans, honestly. Or the idea of a crowd and being able to play for a crowd or having the attention of an audience. It’s sort of a thank you to people who stuck with us through this. The fact we get to come back and play for these amazing crowds that are thousands and thousands of people singing along? It’s an expression of gratitude.”

In a previous era, Evan Felker openly expressed a little frustration with fans singing along to every song. Now he’s singing, “A thousand person choir has an affection all its own.” Felker later sings, “At an old barroom in Tulsa, I looked up and you were there,” seeming to make reference to the band’s return show at Cain’s Ballroom on April 8th, 2022.

The release of this song really speaks to the maturity, perseverance, and character of this band. Frankly, many fans were owed apologies due to some of what happened before the band’s hiatus in 2019. Little did they know they would get a song dedicated to them.

A song like “Brought Me” is where Turnpike Troubadours multi-instrumentalist Hank Early comes in so handy. He can knock out the requisite accordion parts that are rather simple but crucial to the sound the song looks to capture, then he can slide behind the steel guitar and turn in some super tasty runs. The fiddle of Kyle Nix is only featured in fleeting moments, but it plays a crucial role in setting the mood. It’s also Nix’s harmony vocals that really help set the chorus off.

Similar to what we heard on their first single from the new album, “Mean Old Sun,” producer Shooter Jennings is unafraid to utilize the band’s heretofore under-utilized secondary vocalists to a song’s advantage. Evan Felker finds a surprisingly sweet and pleasing tone that is complimentary to this song, and even guitarist Ryan Engelman who is mostly known for undergirding Turnpike with a crunch and attack dials in a more subdued and melodic tone.

Layers of other auxiliary instrumentation such as harmonica and perhaps a Celtic pan flute help emphasize what is very much an Irish structured composition, calling back to some of the most elemental roots of country music. But it’s really the message to fans to not expect this band to sell out or significantly change their sound that is so pleasing and assuring, especially in an era when some performers feel like they can’t be considered “artists” unless they’re alienating some elements of their fan base.

Listening too intently to an album’s pre-release singles can sometimes spoil the cohesive experience of listening to a new album in its entirety with a fresh mind, and should be done cautiously. But since this is the first album from the Turnpike Troubadours in 6 years, you can’t help but sneak a peek into mom’s closet at the birthday presents. In this case, you have reason to be excited at what you see, making you even more feverishly eager for the impending release date.

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