Even as Oklahoma’s own Turnpike Troubadours watch their careers launch off into another stratosphere, their personalities remain clung to earth. 

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Even as Oklahoma’s own Turnpike Troubadours watch their careers launch off into another stratosphere, their personalities remain clung to earth. To do anything less would be a crime against the very nature of the country rock outfit, one that is rooted to the very core in painting a sincere, scrappy, authentic picture of rural life in modern America.

Bands with less conviction would probably let prime slots at Austin City Limits and Wakarusa Music Festival or performing to nearly 10,000 at the famed Denver venue Red Rocks Amphitheatre in 2014 go to their heads, but not these Tahlequah natives. Even in the face of mounting fame, its members still aren’t afraid of getting their hands a little dirty.

“Honestly, I’m trying to get this ’97 Cadillac Limousine running,” bassist R.C. Edwards said, laughing over the phone, explaining why he missed the first call. “Just lost track of time.”

Now the band is on the eve of a two-night stand at the venerable Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa, a venue held in esteem of any Oklahoma musician and most others even outside of state borders. And Turnpike Troubadours have used their standing there as a benchmark for the greater picture, watching themselves go from a humble show on the side stage to headlining and selling out the main stage and now attempting to do that on consecutive nights on Friday and Saturday, the second show already at capacity.

“That was always a goal, wanting to play there,” Edwards said. “For dudes out of eastern Oklahoma, it’s a dream come true. It’s surreal to think about. I remember going there in high school. I think I saw Gwar there. Now you’re playing there. It’s unbelievable.”

Of course, playing to hundreds, even thousands, of adoring fans wasn’t always the case. Before, there were more people grinding their teeth than singing along, and winning those reluctant listeners over is probably the key to the band’s command over festival crowds and sold-out ballrooms today.

“It prepares you for hostile crowds. When you grow up playing beer joints, you aren’t necessarily playing to people who want to hear you,” Edwards said.

For Edwards, lead singer Evan Felker and the rest of the Troubadour boys, playing something they are going to like doesn’t mean selling their souls in the process.

“There are a few things I hear here and there and I like, but a lot of it seems like it’s bad rap music or bad rock music so they call it country,” Edwards said of the state of modern country music. “That bro country stuff is like fast food. Everyone likes to eat it for a while, but sooner or later, you want some home cooking. That’s where our music comes in. It’s your mom’s cooking.”

Edwards doesn’t expect that will be any different when Turnpike Troubadours head in to record their fourth studio effort this March and April, hoping to have the new album out sometime in late 2015 or the early half of 2016. With the songs nearly all written out of the same head, heart and soul as the rest of their back catalog, Edwards promises it to be the best to date.

Maybe three nights at Cain’s is next.

Print headline: Home-style music, Turnpike Troubadours play two shows at Cain’s Ballroom, and they want you to eat it up.

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