Songs from the Turnpike Troubadours reside in an entirely different class from the rest of music. They come with an indefinable quality that make them feel essential to life, like you can’t envision if there weren’t Turnpike Troubadours songs soundtracking the moments you’ve lived through, helping to define eras in your life like time stamps. This is because their songs often say things we a feel, but fail at communicating ourselves.
Turnpike Troubadours music isn’t just mere “entertainment.” It’s emotional manna that instills the meaning in life, tears at the eye in moments or weakness or sorrow, and fills the soul with joy in others. This is brought forth often by the writing of frontman Evan Felker and the way he weaves just enough ambiguity in a song to allow it to mean something different to different people, and to reveal new truths with subsequent listens.
Unlike a Song of the Year, the Single of the Year is supposed to be a jam or a ditty that gets stuck in your head. It just happens to be that the Turnpike Troubadours version of this type of song still comes with an emotional component as well, brought forth in this instance by how we all were forced to ponder a world without the Turnpike Troubadours when they went on hiatus between 2019 and April of 2021.
“Brought Me” is built from the old saying, “Dance with the one that brought you.” Evan Felker expands on this notion by using what sounds like Old English vernacular at times 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 some 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 when grown men were brought to tears by the weight of the moments.
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, namely strings of last-minute cancellations. 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 that 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.
But “Brought Me” really speaks to the symbiotic nature of fan and artist, listener and band that builds into a community that nurtures and supports the music. In an era when some artists feel the best way to assert their creativity is by alienating elements of their fan base or outright insulting them due to ideology, the Turnpike Troubadours are not just unwilling to pass judgement, they’re willing to seek forgiveness.
“Brought Me” is about the loyalty we show to others in love and friendship, the grace we show to people when they fall and fail like we all do, and the ultimate reconciliation that is so crucial to getting through life with the best of outcomes.
The Turnpike Troubadours don’t just win the Saving Country Music Single of the Year. So do their fans and listeners who stuck with them, willed them through a dark period, and have now ensconced them as one of the premier headliners in all of independent country music where we always knew they belonged.