Turnpike Troubadours Track Red Dirt into First Avenue

And ‘Blue Water Highway’ spoke to the Devil

Kyle James Smith of BWH
Kyle James Smith of BWH

Several years ago, I started a personal musical renaissance. I had been a metal-head for most of my adult life. One night I crawled down a rabbit-hole of music on Youtube and discovered Americana; a fusion of blues, country, bluegrass, folk, rock.

I became mesmerized by bands and artist that few had ever heard of. One of my favorites has become the Turnpike Troubadours, a red-dirt band from eastern Oklahoma. I was privileged to cover the Troubadour’s show at First Avenue last night as my first assignment for Music in Minnesota.

Zack Kibideaux of Blue Water Horizon
Zack Kibideaux of Blue Water Horizon. Photo by Chris Walden.

It had been seven years since I had been to First Avenue for a concert (Against Me, 2011). I’ve seen a few Wrestlepalooza’s but that’s a different kind of show altogether. So naturally, I stood in the wrong line. It took extra time for security to inspect the camera bag filled with stuff I (probably) would not need. Then I had to go to the other window for my photo pass. I balked at the $10 coat check and found a low traffic area to fidget with the camera.

The audience grew steadily, to near capacity. 1450 I was told by the crew after the show. Lots of flannel, dirty ball-caps, a few cowboy hats. They wore band t-shirts featuring Whiskey Meyers and Chris Knight. Lots of boots. Definitely my kind of people. A real working man’s crowd. Fewer hipsters than I expected.

Kyle Nix of Turnpike Troubadours
Kyle Nix of Turnpike Troubadours. Photo by Chris Walden.

The opener was Blue Water Highway, a talented Americana band from Texas. BWH showed their range of styles spectacularly. From the heartfelt “Evangeline” to the gospel-inspired “Speaking of the Devil,” Zack Kibodeaux’s crisp vocals shone through and into your soul. I am certain they made many fans. At least one.

Evan Felker of Turnpike Troubadours
Evan Felker of Turnpike Troubadours. Photo by Chris Walden.

The Troubadours took the stage with great energy. The crowd sang along to many tunes, to my pleasant surprise. They’re more popular than I imagined. Evan Felker’s songwriting and vocals are fantastic, telling stories in a way that too many modern songs lack.

“Gin, Smoke, and Lies” had great response during the chorus. “Good Lord, Lori” was fantastic. The encore featured the Blue-grassy “Long Hot Summer Day” with on-point fiddle from Kyle Nix, ending the night on a high note.

I bumped into Nix after the show when he came out to greet a few fans. I’m not really into selfies, but I took one with him to show my son, who is learning to play the violin and loves the Troubadour song “Before the Devil Knows We’re Dead.” Or, maybe I was more starstruck than I realize.

The Turnpike Troubadours
The Turnpike Troubadours. Photo by Chris Walden.


Written by Anna Paulson


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