Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
Trampled By Turtles follow in this new tradition of old tradition. The Duluth, Minnesota, band has, for seven years, been making bluegrass music that adheres to plenty of the timeless standards set forth by Bill Monroe in the 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and on, as well as the Foggy Mountain Boys decades later, but it has added its new accents to the genre as other younger groups have of late. There's been Nickel Creek, Chatham County Line, Old Crow Medicine Show, as well as the Rick Rubin disciples, the Avett Brothers. There's certainly been a renaissance for newgrass music in the recent years, not only in smaller, niche circles, but in a greater realm, taking over somewhat for the jam band/fraternity rock craze that was overbearing in the early part of the 00s. It's a welcome shift in taste, with bands and fans digging into different crates of records and not shying away from grandpa's music just because no one else wants to make it. It's not grandpa's music anymore and this is largely thanks to bands like those named above and Trampled By Turtles, an unfortunately name outfit, but one that is liable to surprise and charm you with each show, each song it performs. These five men are lit up and charged, tearing out a furious series of fire and smoke, hail storms of fiddles, mandolins, banjos, guitars and four-part harmonies that are close to being crystalline. It comes at you like a buffalo, barreling pell mell straight for your center, only, when it gets to you, it transforms into something that just wants to have your company and you the like. Lead singer Dave Simonett writes the way we think when we're caught up in not just one haze, but a couple dozen hazes, struggling to strip back all of the unnecessary bells and whistles - like a soul's spring cleaning of just pitching all of the shit that's been weighing you down and giving you more trouble than it's worth. He writes stacked with the kinds of sleepless worries and troubles that will wrack a head and a man, making him crazy as can be. He starts us out by singing, "I could never pretend I don't love you/You could never pretend I'm your man," on "Wait So Long," from the group's latest album, "Palomino," and he takes a classic ode to always being gone on the road, always behaving with a wandering eye even when the heart knows that what's best is already waiting for it and makes it his own. It's a sentiment that comes up frequently, this idea that hearts are breaking, that men are sinking - doing themselves in, that there are way too many nights of cursing people who are loved and not knowing why they're alone on certain nights. On "Darkness and the Light," he continues with this line of thinking, "And the stars at night/Why do they make you cry?/Don't you think that I'll be coming home?" And before we know it, the actions are just halfway blamed on being the wrong age at the wrong time, believing that there's no way the characters of these songs are seasoned enough to do any of this right. They're going to have money and love problems and they're going to keep tripping on their shoestrings for some time. It's inevitable and when it's delivered alongside a whipping blend of old-timey harmony and flush acoustic instruments, these woes and a line like, "It's a bitch, ain't it babe? To live while you're young/And I'm crushed that the world turned over so soon," sounds like a woe of many generations that have come before us.