Turnpike Troubadours, The Dirty River Boys

The Turnpike Troubadours have arrived just in time.

The so-called Red Dirt scene has been besieged by young guitar slingers acting as REO Speedwagon revivalists, veterans who rely on overly hokey hooks and acts that have, perhaps understandably, headed for the schlocky, sing-by-numbers gold of Nashville. Lately, the tops of the Texas country charts sound more similar to the national Top 40 than many fans would like to admit.

Sure, there are a few torchbearers still doing it right, such as Hayes Carll, Charlie Robison and Reckless Kelly, and now some newcomers are showing an inventive, fresh manner that gives Red Dirt fans hope.

Oklahoma's Turnpike Troubadours might be the band that shines as the most distinctive act hitting the bustling Texas and Oklahoma college circuit these days. The imagery contained in Evan Felker's writing avoids the mundane traps of simplistic love — whether it's for a woman or a Shiner Bock — and instead tells stories that use such tired themes as a springboard to more poetic heights. In fact, similar praise can be handed to El Paso's the Dirty River Boys, a trio that will be playing at Southside Music Hall with the boys from Oklahoma.

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Kelly Dearmore