The 11 tracks traverse complex and emotionally rich terrain — Robert Earl Keen would approve — and so vividly that you can almost smell, as the first song coins it, “cheap perfume and gin and smoke and lies.”
A definite honky-tonk sensibility is at work here, from Kyle Nix’s raggedly effective fiddle work to Evan Felker’s sawdust-coated vocals. Standout tracks includes “Before the Devil Knows We’re Dead,” a moonshine-fueled yarn about an ill-fated May-December hillbilly romance, while “Good Lord Lorrie” and “Empty as a Drum” are lovely vignettes of weariness and regret.
The production echoes the Troubadours’ no-frills aesthetic, and while the sound occasional veers toward the homogenous, the caliber of musicianship and songwriting is enough to pull things through.
There isn’t a bad song in the bunch. “Everything is easy up until it’s complicated,” Felker sings in “Call a Spade a Spade,” a country duet that teams him with Jamie Wilson of The Trishas. The line is a fitting wrap-up of Turnpike Troubadours’ smart, introspective lyrics. Watch for big things. —Phil Bacharach