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Turnpike Troubadours, Jinks together? Bring them on

MGM Music Hall at Fenway, Boston, February 10, 2024

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Turnpike Troubadours and Cody Jinks are both worthy headliners on their own. But the chance to hear both country acts on the same bill? Bring them on.

Jinks and the Troubadours always having released their music on their own labels, forging a dedicated following without the perceived benefit of making music on a major label.

Ironically, both the Troubadours and Jinks are far more traditional country acts than pretty much anything and anyone heard on country radio today. Even will not hear either artist on mainstream radio.

They come at country from different angles though. Jinks is more of an Outlaw Country type and looks like it – dressed in black with a very long, scraggly beard, lots of tattoos and shades.

Turnpike Troubadours came out of the Red Dirt music scene of Oklahoma, but are pretty much a straight country group with fiddle and pedal steel.

Of course, neither radio, nor specific genre, nor looks has anything to with the quality of either act as both ably proved.

While both satisfied, Jinks was just a bit better. There was a certain organic, more free spirited flow to Jinks' music. And Jinks was a more engaging front man than TT's Evan Felker.

Turnpike Troubadours are a well-oiled machine – that's a compliment – but never seemed to go through the motions. Felker, whose alcohol issues forced the Troubadours to go on hiatus for more than three years, was in fine form. He's always been easy on the ears, and tonight was no exception.

And so was the rest of the band, particularly fiddle player Kyle Nix. The burly musician was simply lyrical in much of his playing, putting gasoline on the musical fire. Ryan Engleman's lead guitar playing also stood out.

When Nix kicked off the opening lines of the closing song, John Hartford's majestic "Long Hot Summer Days," well, it just didn't get much better than that.

Jinks and his fine backing band, The Tone Deaf Hippies (both guitarists Jake Lentner and Chris Claridy were muscular), were also in step, although a bit louder and harder-edged than the Troubadours.

But that wasn't always the case during Jinks' 80-minute set. He toned it down a good amount as on "I'm Not the Devil" (perhaps his best-known song with his effectively, low-key, acoustic-based delivery with a healthy dose of steely guitar), emphasizing a more traditional country sound than Outlaw Country.

"Cast No Stones" was more in keeping with the Outlaw Country end. A slow burner of a song, Jinks made it clear he's going to live life his way: "Cast no stones/What gives you the right?/To tell me my business/Good God, man, you're out of your mind."

Jinks unveiled a few songs from his forthcoming album, the title track "Change the Game ," coming in April, and "Outlaws and Mustangs." The radio-friendly (well, probably not today's country radio) song echoes the independence theme with the lines "You don't have to apologize/For your free, exploring mind."

Jinks apparently links to do things his way as he expounded upon on "Hippies and Cowboys," the first of the two-song encore where he asserts his musical independence. A true outlaw attitude. The following said it all:
" I've never been a part of any musical scene/I ain't just talking Nashville, if you know what I mean/They don't write about me in their magazines/And I don't ask for no reviews on the songs that I sing/I never had a lot of friends and I'm alright by that/But people keep on coming back." Yup, his fans do come back, though a show of hands indicated most had never seen him before. Good for him.

About the only negative of having the co-headline status was that each set was presumably a bit shorter than if each was the outright headliner. Maybe that's why the Troubadours only played four songs from the very likable recent CD "A Cat in the Rain."

As Jinks mused aloud during his set, he wondered about doing this kind of tour together again, and the crowd responded enthusiastically. The two acts are only doing five shows together, but if a whole tour together happened, with shows like this, that'd be welcome news.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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