The Turnpike Troubadours Are Back Together

photo: David McClister

Turnpike Troubadours Indefinite Hiatus: May 31st, 2019 to November 29th, 2021.
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Christmas is coming early for many fans of the startlingly talented band from Oklahoma, the Turnpike Troubadours. After first dropping hints that their 2 1/2 year hiatus was coming to a close last week by posting an ambiguous “Coming Soon” graphic on their website and wiping their Instagram clean, on Monday morning the band posted a photo of all six members of the most solid lineup the band has experienced in its history, all reunited, and together once again, snapped by renown music photographer, David McClister.

This includes drummer Gabriel Pearson, guitarist Ryan Engleman, steel guitar and accordion player Hank Early, fiddle player Kyle Nix, bassist RC Edwards, and frontman/singer/songwriter Evan Felker, whose battles with alcohol are thought to be the primary reason for the temporary dissolving of the band in 2019 after numerous cancelled shows. Evan Felker has since gotten sober, reunited with his wife, and they now have a young daughter.

If anything was proven during the hiatus, it was that the Turnpike Troubadours should be considered a supergroup all unto themselves, with RC Edwards and Kyle Nix launching solo projects, and all the members being infinitely missed by fans of what is considered by many listeners and critics alike as one of the best, and most important and influential independent country music bands in the modern era.

It also puts to bed the ludicrous internet rumors that sprang from a Reddit thread that former Turnpike Troubadour and solo artist John Fullbright would be taking the reigns as frontman for the band. Rumors are still swirling that the band will be reuniting at a date at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa that both RC Edwards and Kyle Nix are playing on December 4th. But so far, there’s no confirmation of that either.

What the posting of this photo does help corroborate are the theories that the band has been in the studio recently or perhaps soon will be, and we can hopefully expect some live shows soon as well, including perhaps a big reunion somewhere and maybe a subsequent tour. But as we’ve seen with other rumors and assumptions about this band in the past (see above), it’s still best to be patient, and allow the band to reveal their plans on their time, and on their terms.

As everyone’s hair is on fire with excitement and anticipation that the Turnpike Troubadours are finally reuniting, it’s probably important to also reflect back on how trouble beset this group of close knit guys from Oklahoma in the first place. Evan Felker and the other members of the Turnpike Troubadours have likely gone through a great amount of personal work to put bygones aside and help make this dream of many fans become a reality, and they will have to continue that work to make sure similar troubles don’t strike again.

But fans have an obligation as well, to not put unrealistic expectations on this band, to not tempt certain members towards their demons when interacting with them personally, to not gossip incessantly about their business, and to understand the human frailty that makes the music of the Turnpike Troubadours resonate so deeply is what also can and did put the future of this band in grave peril.

Independent music isn’t like the mainstream. It’s a community, and we all have a responsibility, and a shared role to make it work without the money changers bankrolling it behind-the-scenes, or pulling the levers of power. That’s why we celebrate the achievements alongside our favorite independent performers when they do well, just as we feel deflated in their defeats.

The bigger picture from this solitary photo of the Turnpike Troubadours together once again is that conflicts can be resolved, people can change, and wounds can heal. But it takes work. It takes understanding and forgiveness. And if everyone is willing to give a little, it can succeed. And hopefully, it will continue to succeed now into the foreseeable future for the Turnpike Troubadours.

Don’t ever take the moments you share with your favorite artists and bands for granted, because you never know when they could get scuttled and go away forever. That is the lesson of the last 2 1/2 years from the Turnpike Troubadours. And thankfully, that painful and protracted lesson is finally over.

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