“Thank you, John Steinbeck,” Trampled by Turtles is back

by Felicity Bosk

Trampled by Turtles released their eighth album Life is Good on the Open Road earlier this month. The 12-track album explores themes of divorce, loneliness, traveling, Hollywood, sadness and small town bars.

You may have heard by now the Duluth bluegrass band made a surprise appearance during this year’s Homegrown Music Festival at Pizza Luce. Their official album release show was May 4 in St. Paul. They will be in Duluth for an officially scheduled show July 7 at Bayfront, but who knows, you might happen to see them around the town they call home (and named an album after).

I’ve been enjoying this album extensively. It brings a lot of the energy that separates them from other bands. There are some slow tracks like “Life is Good on the Open Road”, “I’m Not There Anymore” and “I Learn the Hard Way.” Dave Simonett opened up about his divorce with The Boot. Themes of this are heard in these slower songs. The last line of the album is, “I know you can’t save me but I know that’s alright.” 

The first song is titled “Kelly’s Bar.” It is the perfect song to start off with as it brings the most energy and got fans excited to listen to the rest. The song is about the real-life Kelly’s Bar in Red Wing, Minn. The Current did an interview with a bartender who said Simonett was a regular. The song is a culmination of experiences at a small town bar and shows fans that Trampled by Turtles is still all about that small town Minnesota life.

Cellist Eamonn McLain brings a wonderful tune to listen to in “We All Get Lonely.” Lyrically the song is simple. The only line that I thought was particularly thought provoking was, “Everyone you never wanted to run into again is sitting at this bar next to each other.” But the cello holds this song up. 

“The Middle” is probably my favorite song on this album, besides “Kelly’s Bar.” Fiddler Ryan Young got to break out his skill during the breakdown. He goes off while other strings play in the background. It’s reminiscent of the breakdown of “Wait so Long” (arguably their most well-known song). 

The title track, “Life is Good on the Open Road,” is lyrically interesting. Instead of telling a story, it’s expressing a feeling: “Run so fast through the fields in May, and I forgot what I had to say, I’ve never been through a harder day, than the one that left your ghost here.” McClain reinforces the sad mood on the cello. It ends slowly with the guitar fading out. As far as title tracks go, this song expresses what the album is fully about, even if it was the least energetic track.

A lot of bands, as they become increasingly famous, will lose touch with their roots. Trampled by Turtles has made efforts in this album to ensure we don’t think this, with, of course, “Kelly’s Bar” and also, “I went to Hollywood.” The song readily admits the singer spent time in California but also explains they hated it. 

“Life is Good” feels a lot like their 2010 album “Palomino.” I’m sure people will disagree, but that’s what’s fun about music, everyone has a different opinion. The energy of this album all around, from each instrument and from Simonett, is reminiscent of what they’ve always been doing and I think we’ll be hearing a lot of radio plays from a few of these tracks in the future.