Duluth bluegrass sextet Trampled By Turtles will play back-to-back sold out nights at Thalia Hall this weekend, May 19th & 20th. The band’s timely visit provides fans the opportunity to hear songs off their new album, Life is Good on the Open Road. While the band’s first studio album since 2014 is unlikely to produce any singles as popular as “Wait So Long,” it’s an engaging album that distinguishes itself with song-to-song variety and detailed lyrics.
While the band sticks to its core instruments (guitar, fiddle, mandolin, banjo, cello and upright bass), they successfully avoid the trap of making every song sound the same. The album opens with “Kelly’s Bar,” the most twangy, straightforward bluegrass track on the album. It then transitions into the country ballad, “We All Get Lonely,” and continues to vary the pace. This ebb and flow allows the group to show off musical influences that include rock, folk, punk and country. “Blood in the Water,” for example, sounds like a hardcore punk song that just happens to be played on stringed instruments.
Singer and guitarist Dave Simonett’s lyrics, meanwhile, are at their best when at their most detailed. Songs like “Thank You John Steinbeck” include vivid details, like a name or the color of someone’s eyes, that add richness and make the music feel lived-in. On the other end of the spectrum, tired cliches like the aforementioned “Blood on the Water” feel empty. Luckily, the band largely sticks to their former, placing the lyrical quality of the album on par with the composition.
If Life is on the Open Road is any indication, then Trampled By Turtles are a reenergized bunch after a year and a half hiatus. Fans coming out to Thalia Hall on Saturday & Sunday should be in for quite the treat. For those who can’t make it out to see the band in person, Life is Good on the Open Road is a great listen in itself.