With a funny name like Trampled By Turtles, how can you go wrong? I had never heard of this band before listening to this album (their latest album), but I am glad that I know them now; for they are much more than a funny name. Comprised of a group of six men from Minnesota, they take American folk music, bluegrass, alternative rock, and country and turn it into something that the Meat Puppets would love. They’re not a new band (they are actually celebrating their 15th anniversary this year), but they are surely creating a new, special genre that only they seem to get right. From their personal sound to their band name, they are certainly very creative.
Unfortunately, creativity often comes with a price. After years of performing, numerous Billboard charting albums, and two performances on The Late Show with David Letterman, the group announced a hiatus. Being surrounded by the same people day in and day out is not a bad thing, but I can bet that it is exasperating. Luckily, a four-year hiatus did not end tragically, as the group came together again — after a year of seeing little to none of each other — to take their band back out of the closet. After some minor dusting off, the band was as a good as new; actually, maybe even better than new.
Life Is Good On The Open Road is Trampled By Turtles’ ninth studio album, all of which have been released under the same label: BanjoDad. BanjoDad has always let the group have creative control, take their time, and work toward a common goal; in their case, releasing an album that they all would love to sit down and listen to front to back. Life Is Good is just that. It is fresh, new, fulfilling, and 12 tracks that profoundly stand out above much of what the band has done before.
My absolutely favorite track on the album is “We All Get Lonely.” It is a stunning ballad that highlights each of the band members’ strengths, Dave Simonett’s songwriting, and refreshing sense of the new album. To come back and create music so pure after so much time is often difficult; let alone to create music that gives the listener goosebumps for the entirety of the song. The background music is flawless, dictating the perfect setting for a ballad that seems to hit so close to home. It’s four minutes of heaven.
The title-track is similar in the setup of the background instrumentals and the beautiful harmonies, but it’s message is a bit more uplifting — yet the personal feelings interspersed are just as clear in Simonett’s voice. If it did not sound so similar to the more melancholy “We All Get Lonely,” or honestly most of the other songs on the album, then it would most definitely be one of the more lively, standout tracks. The only downside to the album as a whole is how similar each song sounds. They’re all lovely, unique bluegrass tunes and they evidently know their personal sound and run with it to the fullest. Unfortunately, it just makes for a bit of monotony when listening to album cover to cover.
I can’t stress enough about how talented these six Minnesota men are. They’re honest musicians, who are known to put on fantastic, lively concerts, and continue to put their heart and soul into every record. They know their niche in the music industry — which is hard to find — but I would love to see them stray a little further away and incorporate an electric guitar, or a duet, or a more rambunctious type of tune. Needless to say, Trampled By Turtles can certainly hold their own when it comes to playing any instrument (Dave Carroll on the banjo is amazing), writing songs, and staying true to themselves.