I’m sure you’ve seen this before. The special effects people take an explosion and play it backwards, in slow motion. The result is a whole bunch of disparate, seemingly unrelated, pieces all come together to form the perfect whole. That’s the kind of experience I had with the new album from Trampled by Turtles, Life Is Good On the Open Road. All the parts came together and the band is suddenly a master of something where they previously excelled at just a piece.
The result is on songs like The Middle and the title track, Trampled sounds less like a speedgrass band and more indie, almost pop. Think Old Crow Medicine Show or the Avetts. They knocked a couple of slower ballads, Thank You John Steinbeck and I’m Not There Anymore, out of the park. I noticed particularly how fiddler Ryan Young is coaxing emotion out of his instrument.
That breadth of material in turn seems to have made the heart-racing tempo Trampled is known for come through as even more of a highlight when it’s used. And used it is on Kelly’s Bar, a sounds-autobiographical story about a place in Red Wing, MN. Same thing for Annihilate and Blood In the Water. A little less breakneck, but still uptempo is I Went To Hollywood about pursuing one’s dreams and arriving a little late. (Seems like I had the same experience they did at the Rainbow Bar.)
Trampled by Turtles is a group of clearly talented musicians. They gained a following in no small part because of their ability to play almost inhumanly fast. Now, with age and wisdom and years of playing together on the road, they’ve added a large amount of depth and complexity. So if you’re not familiar with Trampled by Turtles, Life Is Good On the Open Road is a great place to start.
About the author: Support new music. Listen to a band or singer you've never heard of this week. I've been doing that for over 30 years.