On Friday, two of the most exciting bands in Dallas will release their first albums on the same record label. Adding to the chummy nature of the event, the pair of bands will headline a dual album release concert celebration at the Granada Theater on the same night. And let’s not make any mistake here, the self-titled collection from the Ottoman Turks and the 40 Acre Mule’s Goodnight and Good Luck are both powerhouse albums well-deserving of a grand soiree.
This isn’t just a bit of serendipitous corporate planning, mind you. Sure, the label mates share a rowdy, sweaty roots-rock energy, a record producer in local roots-rock hero John Pedigo (who also plays guitar in the 40 Acre Mule), but it goes further than that, Ottoman Turks lead singer Nathan Mongol Wells says.
“They’re really the only band we could do something like this with," Wells says about the 40 Acre Mule. “We’re like musical brothers. We’ve been playing with them for years now, through the ups and downs, and from the beginning, this just made sense. It was an easy choice for us to make if we’re trying to throw the ultimate party.”
J. Isaiah Evans, the lead singer for the 40 Acre Mule, echoes the brotherly bond his band has with the Turks. “If bands can be family, I guess it's fair to say that Ottoman Turks and the 40 Acre Mule are brothers. That’s how it was even before we were both on State Fair Records. As a matter of fact, I think we signed our record deals the same week.”
Indeed, both bands have been playing around town for some time now, with Ottoman Turks forming all the way back in 2009, and the 40 Acre Mule banding together in 2015. While three or four years before releasing an album isn’t much of a stretch, it’s certainly notable when a band with as lengthy a history as Wells and crew have finally release something for real.
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Relying on their ability to, as Wells says, “put on a hell of a show,” he, along with members Billy Law, Paul Hinojo and noted singer-songwriter Joshua Ray Walker set about making their name as a can’t-miss country-rock act, if not a group with a bunch of killer albums. The 40 Acre Mule has been putting on its share of fiery shows in the past couple of years, as well, and Evans feels even though his outfit leans into old-school rhythm and blues more than twangy country, it's something deeper than the notes and beats that tie these two bands, as well as much of the current country scene in Dallas, together.
“We’re all friends and fans of one another,” Evans says. “That’s a unique aspect of the scene that’s breaking here in North Texas. We also make music that comes from a sincere place. It seems to fall under this ever-growing category of Americana, which is all just roots music in one form or another.”
It was some local appreciation from some key members of the Dallas music scene that helped the Turks go from nearly broken to their current blissful state. After a horrendous gig early in 2018, where everything felt off and sounded worse, the band decided to let nature take its course. Personal issues were getting the best of the guys, and individual goals had begun to diverge from one another. If the offers to play stopped coming in, the band collectively decided, then they would stop playing.
The next email to populate Wells’ inbox was from the Granada Theater’s Tara Wurts with an offer. Not too long afterward, Trey Johnson of State Fair Records saw them perform at the classic Greenville Avenue venue, which led to where we find them now.
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Goodnight and Good Luck is a soulful, bombastic, sweltering album highlighted by Evans’ robust vocals. He grew up singing in church and learning how to belt it out from his opera-trained mother and his dad, who “had an incredibly beautiful voice for soul and gospel,” he says. He, Robert Anderson, Tim Cooper, Chris Evetts and Pedigo have seen steady progression in venue quality and crowd size in the last couple of years, but no matter where or in front of how many, Evans is still doing what he loves.
“When you start a band,” he says, “or you write songs, you’re putting a piece of yourself out there. I write songs that I like, and of course, I hope other people like them too. Our audiences want a real connection with real music.”
Indeed, Friday night is a big night for the two bands. But a new album, even if it is a first album, isn’t the chosen end-point for either group. Wells looks back on the 10-year life of the Ottoman Turks and can finally feel secure in knowing any confusion in the past is just that, in the past.
“We figured the answer would make itself clear,” he says. “It took a long time, but we’re here now, and it’s incredible.”