Following a meteoric rise over the 2010’s that saw the small town Oklahoma band rise from the Heartland to one of the top touring country bands around, the Turnpike Troubadours capped their reunion tour with a recently wrapped up two night run at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium on July 29 and 30.
During their over 90-minute-long performance, the band laid into several of their biggest hits across their four albums, which have propelled them to being one of the premiere red dirt country bands and hottest tickets around. They kicked off their set with “Every Girl” before rolling into a barrage of boot-stomping sing-a-longs that literally reverberated through all of the Ryman, including “7 & 7,” “The Winding Stair Mountain Blues,” “Pay No Rent,” “The Bird Hunters,” “Good Lord Lorrie” and “Gin, Smoke, Lies.”
From start to finish, an ear-to-ear grin could be seen from Evan Felker and the rest of the faces of the Turnpike crew as they relished in their Ryman moment just as much as the over 2,500 fans in attendance. This existed in both the show’s amped up moments and in its more poignant, such as a duo rendition of “Diamonds & Gasoline” near the end of the show with just Felker and Hank Early on dobro. Felker then left the stage and handed over his center spot to Ryan Engleman for a cover of Dawes “All Your Favorite Bands,” seemingly making a nod to their own hiatus and reunion in the process.
The full band was back on the stage for a breakdown of John Hartford’s classic song “Long Hot Summer Day” that ended with the band clapping along as the sell-out crowd took over vocals in unison, singing “For every day I’m workin’ on the Illinois River / Get a half a day off with pay / Old tow boat pickin’ up barges / On a long hot summer day.”
Following the Hartford ditty the band left the stage to a tidal wave of applause before re-emerging for a three song encore of “1968,” “Bossier City” and “Long Drive Home,” putting a cap on an incredibly memorable night.
From current stars to stars in the making, 49 Winchester opened the show with a distinctly different Appalachian country twang as they covered similar themes of triumph and heartache. The Virginia collective opened the evening with the smooth harmonies of “Annabel,” the lead track from their renowned New West Records debut Fortune Favors the Bold.
Other cuts from the album like “Damn Darlin’,” “Russell County Line,” “Hillbilly Daydream” and “Fortune Favors the Bold” followed as frontman Isaac Gibson’s Appalachian croon echoed throughout the Mother Church. Also mixed in were several of the band’s older hits like “Chemistry,” “Hayes, Kansas,” “Long Hard Life,” “Everlasting Lover” and “It’s a Shame” that further expanded on the band’s themes of struggle in life and romance and getting stranded in the middle of nowhere.
Behind the earnest songwriting and flooring vocals of Gibson sits an incredibly tight band comprised at its core of his childhood friends Chase Chafin (bass), Bus Shelton (guitar) and Noah Patrick (pedal steel) that have struck on a blend of country rock that was firing on all cylinders on Saturday night, helping to fire up the crowd for night two of Turnpike’s triumphant Ryman run.
If 49 Winchester’s debut Ryman performance was any indication it won’t be long before they’re back behind the stained glass headlining from the legendary stage themselves.
10 Fascinating Facts About the Ryman Auditorium
The Ryman Auditorium is revered for its world-class acoustics and long, storied history within country music. The venue began as a church — hence its nickname, “the Mother Church of Country Music,” and stained-glass windows — and quickly became a destination for live country music, helping popularize the genre and mold downtown Nashville into a rowdy, honky-tonk-filled destination.
Today, the Ryman Auditorium hosts residencies and concerts from not only country legends and hitmakers, but pop artists, speakers and more. However, there are some dark years in the building’s history; it was a now-legend who helped bring the venue back to its former glory.
How did the Ryman Auditorium become so iconic? Check out this list of 10 facts about the Mother Church to find out: