The Colorado bluegrass scene has given us any number of energetic young bands on the progressive side of things in recent years. One of the newer groups to transition into a full-fledged touring band is Turkeyfoot, which has its roots in a group of friends gathering around one mic at a jam each week in Denver. Those friends – Alex Koukov (banjo and guitar), Bridger Dunnagan (fiddle), Dave Pailet (dobro and guitar), Jordan Brandenburg (mandolin), and Michael Rudolph (bass) – have recently released their first full-length album, a Kickstarter-funded effort titled Promise of Tomorrow. There’s plenty of fine music here, with eleven of the twelve songs originals from band members, and skilled instrumentation throughout.
The album opens on a strong note with Another Painful Lesson Learned, penned by Brandenburg. It has a bouncy, swing vibe that will get listeners’ toes tapping from the first few notes of the fiddle. The upbeat sound belies the narrator’s pain at failing to get over an old heartbreak: “Sometimes the wound just won’t heal, and the hurt is all I feel.” Another well-written track from Brandenburg’s pen is the title track, which is the evocative story of a poor couple from Oklahoma making their way west during the Dust Bowl era. Inspired by stories of the time period from Brandenburg’s grandparents, excellent imagery, haunting fiddle from Dunnagan, and atmospheric pedal steel from guest Mike Robinson make this song a standout.
Girl from Oklahoma shares a similar theme of striking out for a new life, capturing the wanderlust of a girl who needs to spread her wings away from home. The rolling melody captures the feeling of watching the miles fly by, and Pailet’s dobro is of specific note here. On the opposite end of the spectrum, at least lyric-wise, is Coming Home, a fiddle and banjo-guided ode to the warmth and love of home. There are hundreds of bluegrass songs about home, if not more, but this one stands out thanks, in part, to what it doesn’t include. The singer here isn’t returning to a cabin on a mountain, like so many other bluegrass artists, but instead a place that, presumably, reflects the writer’s actual home: “Spanish chatter on the AM radio,” along with mesquite trees and pump jacks, create great specific images in listeners’ minds.
A bit of old-time country comes along with Things You’ve Been Chasing, which tackles the inability of material things (from owning racehorses and oil wells, to abusing drugs and alcohol) to be fulfilling. The fun, cheerful melody makes the song seem more lighthearted than it is – the message here is actually fairly deep. Telluride Waltz, written by Koukov, also has a bit of an older country and western feel, somewhat reminiscent of cowboy songs. It’s a slow waltz with drawling vocals to match, honoring the unmatched beauty of Colorado.
It’s hard to know what to expect of a debut album from an unfamiliar band, especially when the songs are almost entirely original, but I was pleasantly surprised by Turkeyfoot. Though many bluegrass fans would automatically associate their Colorado origins with more experimental groups and jamgrass, Turkeyfoot offers fairly straightforward contemporary bluegrass, displaying folk and old-time influences here and there throughout the album. The group has some strong songwriters, and their music is well-controlled and inventive at the same time. This album should garner the group plenty of new fans by the time next festival season rolls around.
For more information on Turkeyfoot, visit them online. Their new album is available from several online music retailers.