Sounds Like: Heartland country-rock built for roadhouses and keg parties, with tunes that chronicle the highs, hangovers and heartbreaks of Middle America
For Fans of: Cross Canadian Ragweed, Steve Earle, Robert Earl Keen
Why You Should Pay Attention: In a genre filled with pin-up singers and anonymous backup musicians, Turnpike Troubadours are a genuine band, with a touring schedule that's kept the guys together on the road for nearly a decade. Already kings in Texas and Oklahoma, they're making a national splash with their self-titled fourth album, which bowed at Number Three on the country charts.
They Say: "Any time some rock & roller gets washed up in whatever band they're in, they switch to country music and try to play our game," says frontman Evan Felker. "But it's not country music. It's just bad pop. I grew up in a town of 400 people. I worked in a paper mill. My dad's a cowboy. I'm from the country, and you just can't fool me with that pop stuff." Does that make him reluctant to use the "country" label with the Troubadours then? "No, it makes me want to use it more. I'm happy to be a country band. Somebody's gotta do it!"
Hear for Yourself: The album's lead-off single "Down Here" is heavy on pedal steel, fiddle and the promise that things will get better. Andrew Leahey