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Turnpike Troubadours leave no doubt

Brighton Music Hall, Boston, April 26, 2017

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Turnpike Troubadours have not released an album since mid-September 2015. Don't look for any new release hitting the streets any day now either. The last time the Oklahoma-based band played Boston, they were in a pretty, 1,200-seat theatre.

So, one could have been outwardly skeptical about the band when it downsized to a venue on the outskirts of Boston, holding a bit more than 500 people with no new material in tow.

Even the most cynical should have easily agreed, however, that Turnpike Troubadours are doing just fine, thank you with superb musical acumen and engaging songs, not to mention a sold-out crowd that needed no encouragement (thought it did receive just a tad) in spewing out the lyrics and stomping their feet to the music throughout the nearly 100-minute show.

While the band has been connected with the Red Dirt music scene in Oklahoma, somewhat of a cross between country and rock, kind of like an Oklahoma Americana music.

In reality, the Troubadours - still a great name that pretty much encapsulates what the band is about - are far closer to country than any other sound. They also could rock with a cover of Old 97s' "Doreen" splitting the slender differences between these two groups.

Evan Felker capably does the job as the front man, though he still is not a big talker or score high on the charisma matter. He's not the least bit showy and chats it up a bit, but seems more concerned with putting the songs across. That's not a bad thing.

The same low-key approach can't be said for the rest of the band, particularly lead guitarist Ryan Engelman and fiddle man Kyle Nix. Both tended to set the musical tone in song after song. Engelman could go steely and spare, while also throwing out more rocking guitar run when needed. Nix often sparked the material with his spirited violin playing.

And with pedal steel sometimes underneath along with the solid rhythm section of bassist (and main songwriter) R.C. Edwards and drummer Gabe Pearson, there was a lot of depth to the music. Edwards took a turn on vocals on the good time sounding "Get Drunk, Get High, Get Loud," although it was a far better song that its title would indicate.

It sure helped to have songs like "Gin, Smoke, Lies" (yup, drinking is part of the fabric) and the excellent regular set closer of "Long Hot Summer Day" with band and crowd fully engaged.

Turnpike Troubadours offered a night filled with good sounds and a great vibe. From the outside, maybe fans might wonder what's up with the group. With performances like this, there's no doubt.

Texas blues and sometimes country singer Charlie Crockett opened with a deservedly well-received set. He tended to go more blues and soulful than country, but he knows his Texas musical roots as well with a spirited cover of "Drivin' Nails in My Coffin." Crockett benefitted as well from a sturdy backing band.