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Whatever you call The Turnpike Troubadours were all good

Wilbur Theatre, Boston, November 3, 2015

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Bands are less and less interested in being labeled and pigeon-holed into a particular genre. Understandable because doing so limits your audience in particularly difficult times when it comes to music as a business. The Turnpike Troubadours have been put into the Red Dirt music category (it's an Oklahoma music thing), an even more limiting genre since it's likely most would have a puzzled look when asked about it.

But the music served up by The Turnpike Troubadours didn't limit them in any way in a well-conceived and developed 90-minute show.

The fiddle of Kyle Nix with his white cowboy hat kicked the night off with "The Bird Hunters," the lead-off song on their brand new self-titled disc. That was the sign of things to come where his fiddle and Ryan Engelman on pedal steel were the keys to the Troubadours' sound, which came off as more country than anything else.

Lead singer Evan Felker may not have been a particularly charismatic performer or chat happy with the mass of people on the floor (the two balcony levels were less crowded), but he took command of the songs from start to finish. Blowing an occasional harp helped.

There was no sense that the songs felt rushed either because on more than one occasion where you would think the song was over, there would be a coda.

The Troubadours smartly varied their sound sufficiently, especially getting hotter towards the end with "Whole Damn Town," "Bossier City" and "Diamonds & Gasoline" before Felker appeared with acoustic guitar in hand and pedal steel accompaniment for a soothing cover of Jesse Winchester's "Mississippi You're On My Mind" and a cover of Dawes' "All Your Favorite Bands."

A steady build to the regular set culminated in once again fiddle led "Long Hot Summer Days" with the crowd singing the chorus.

Red Dirt? Country? Rootsy? Americana? The Turnpike Troubadours are all of them, but no matter how you may have wanted to slice and dice their sound, The Turnpike Troubadours were all good.

The Black Lillies proved to be a very complimentary opening act. The Knoxville, Tenn.-based Americana band, had a healthy hour to show their stuff.

Cruz Contreras handled a good chunk of the lead vocals along with sidekick Trisha Gene Brady with the two sometimes trading stanzas.

Contreras particularly took the music to a higher level when he hit the keyboards, coming off a bit like a Jerry Lewis type of performer. New guitarist Mike Sipe added tasteful licks time and again, sometimes twangy or steely.

The Black Lillies ended with an on target cover of Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth."

Towards the end, Contreras told the crowd that they'd be back real soon. With outings like this, they had good reason to advertise the fact.