Turnpike Troubadours End Up On Top and Under the Big Sky Fest

photo: Felicia Garcia via Under The Big Sky

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Life and music are funny things. Last year at Under The Big Sky Fest in Whitefish, Montana, the talk was if the Turnpike Troubadours would ever get back together, and how perfect they would be to play what is quickly becoming the premier festival in independent country music. This year, they headlined the festival on Friday night (7-15) in front of what might be the biggest crowd that amasses in independent country music all year.

It’s not that the Turnpike Troubadours were just meandering along and mired in obscurity before their hiatus in May of 2019. But clearly the distance and time away made hearts grow fonder, and has acted like a slingshot for this band from Oklahoma to the point where they’re now at the top of the heap when it comes to independent country performers. And as they proved once again Friday night (7-15), they’re also at the top of their game when it comes to performing live, perhaps better than ever before.

The night almost presented some drama, and of a version Turnpike Troubadours fans are not entirely unfamiliar with. Not due to any personal issues, but due to the issues plaguing the American airline industry at the moment, Evan Felker fell victim to flight delays and almost didn’t make it to the stage. Ahead of their set, not a little hand wringing and hair pulling was happening behind-the-scene with worries the frontman would not make it on time. But he did, and by the time Turnpike launched into “Every Girl,” all those worries were forgotten.

“You couldn’t as for a better night,” said Evan Felker from the stage, later remarking that he wished he’d booked some more time to hang around Montana. But the band has been busy lately, playing festivals all across the country. The Telluride Bluegrass Festival, the Jackalope Jamboree, Palomino Festival in California last week all saw appearances by Turnpike. But none of them may be as big or as important as headlining at Under The Big Sky.

Time is the greatest judge of music, and as time has gone on, the music of the Turnpike Troubadours has proven itself to be absolutely vital, and some of the best to be found in country music as their long-time fans had been professing for years. It took some adversity, drama, and even the potential demise of the band for them to finally find their footing, and the prominence they deserve. But here they are at the top of the heap where they’ve always belonged.


1. Every Girl
2. 7&7
3. Before The Devil Knows We’re Dead
4. Good Lord Lorrie
5. Blue Star
6. Shreveport
7. The Bird Hunters
8. Something To Hold On To
9. A Tornado Warning
10. The Housefire
11. Morgan Street
12. Gin, Smoke, Lies
13. Whole Damn Town
14. Kansas City Southern
15. Diamonds and Gasoline – Evan Felker w/ Hank Early
16. All Your Favorite Bands – RC Edwards singing
17. Long Hot Summer Day
18. Wrecked
19. Bossier City
20. Long Drive Home

Evan Felker
Old tow boat pickin’ up barges, on a long hot summer day
Kyle Nix repping fiddler Byron Berline of the Country Music Hall of Fame
Ryan Engleman
The look you flash when your first flight was canceled, your second one just got delayed for the second time, and you’ve got places to be.
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