From the Stadium to the Road
When I first heard I'd be talking to Kyle Turley about his debut album, I thought to myself, "Remember what Billy Bob Thornton did to that Canadian DJ." But Kyle Turley isn't like that. People who remember him from his (in)famous football career will be happy to have him back and, if they listen to this record, they'll learn something new about Kyle Turley, and possibly even a little about their own life.
We talked on the phone only briefly. He was humbler than any famous guy I've ever spoken to. He thanked me a lot for liking his record and for wanting to write about it here. He's releasing the record on his own label. He's keeping it simple. He was preparing to direct his own video at Hank III's ranch outside Nashville. The video, for the song "Another Whiskey," introduces the heights and the depths to which Turley takes his music. It's a measure of extremes, a level of honesty and a fluency in the arrangements that lifts the music above the level of a debut LP.
"I love the NFL," he says in the first line of "Flyin' Helmets," but it's more complicated than that. Turley uses his past as a famous athlete to populate his songs about actual physical pain, about life on the road, and about how living the good life has broken his body. It's a remarkable decision, because it makes the songs compelling country music that fits into the outlaw tradition like a close cousin. He's conflicted about his past. According to the songs, he loved and hated the NFL.
He names names, says he wanted to be a Dallas Cowboy, calls one former player a "pussy," and thanks God for Mike Ditka. He sings about his pain. He thanks Jesus more than once and embraces the fact that he's "with the Devil, and the Devil is with him." On "Only God Knows," he's trusting it all to God, but when reflecting on his mistakes, the strength in the chorus is when he sings loudly that he's "heading straight to Hell."
And it's in that country music tradition that Turley's music finds its home. That's when the music speaks best to its audience. This isn't Nashville sippy-cup country music. The songs find hope amidst pain, and beauty in the love of the lost. It's the same pain that Waylon wrote about, and the same Road that Hank lived and died on.
And as sure as Kyle Turley seems to be proud of his relationship with The Devil, he never stops thanking God, struggling with sin, pain, his past, his future, and his life on The Road. END
Kyle Turley plays Saturday, March 13th, at Wired Live (formerly The Meridian; 1503 Chartres, Houston, TX. 77003), along with Hank III & Assjack and Lynda K.