Jason Boland & The Stragglers announce the autumn release of Squelch on
Proud Souls / Thirty Tigers
“…one of the country scene’s most multidimensional songwriters, unfurling honky-tonk rave-ups, slices of slow-burn swing and tear-in-your-beer ballads.” New York Times
Another son of the Oklahoma Red Dirt, Jason Boland is a man with a gift for perfect timing. Just as listeners are crying out for something true, some meaty songs that offer comfort, even as they cut right down to the bone, everyone is finally ready for the gritty, thundering country sound that Jason Boland & The Stragglers have sharpened over almost 20 years. And new album Squelch is the proof.
Picked by Billboard as one of the key country music releases of 2015 and billed as a, “Beg, borrow, sell a kidney,” event by www.savingcountrymusic.com, Squelchfeatures the brand of true, no-frills country music Jason Boland has built a burgeoning reputation on as one of the genre’s genuine and most exciting ambassadors.
As a dominant force in Red Dirt music and as an honest, intelligent, thought-provoking lyricist, Jason Boland has always pushed the boundaries of what country music could, and should be, while maintaining a high level of artistic integrity. “We’re just trying to make something that we’re proud of,” Boland says.
Since coming together in Stillwater, Oklahoma, Boland and his tight-knit crew have sold more than 600,000 albums independently and earned a devoted following that’s swelled far beyond the band’s Red Dirt roots. At a Stragglers show, oil patch roughnecks, hippies, college kids, and intelligentsia all sway side-by-side like a traveling reincarnation of Austin’s Armadillo World Headquarters in its cosmic cowboy, Willie Nelson heyday.
Listen to the album now on soundcloud below…..
While The Stragglers draw from rock and folk, make no mistake, they traffic in unfiltered, unfettered honky-tonk, raw and lean. Equal parts subtle, meditative, and snarling, and often wickedly funny, Squelch is a deeply rooted exercise in exhuming beauty by trading artifice for something that feels real. “We pay homage, but we don’t want to copy or be a throwback act,” Boland says. “All you can do is try to take the music that inspires you and make it personal.” He is who he is, and he’s all in, what you see is what you get.
Recorded at Orb Recording Studios in Austin and mixed at Sonic Ranch in El Paso, Squelch was produced by Jim Ward (At the Drive-In, Sparta, Sleepercar). Like two previous Stragglers’ albums, Squelch was recorded and mixed directly to tape. Boland says, “I think it’s a fuller, richer sound. And it’s just more honest.”
The signatures of their sound are immediately apparent from the opener Break 19, which revels in bassist Grant Tracy’s heart-pounding walks, punctuated by Nick Worley’s whirling fiddle, Brad Rice’s locomotive drumming, and newest Straggler Cody Angel’s achy pedal steel. There’s not a throwaway line to be found, as Boland’s deep baritone rumbles through a sly takedown of modern media.
I Guess It’s Alright is classic Boland wordplay layered over a breakneck shot of adrenaline, a rollicking send-up of society’s uneven tolerance of bad behaviour over growling guitar. Fat And Merry bristles with snark, taking aim at quintessential American hustle and nonstop consumption. “Nobody wants to come off as judgmental, but you have to make judgments,” Boland says. “With your tongue in your cheek is a nice way to do it. None of us are above reproach.”
First To Know is a love song for adults and a plea for understanding. It’s also a reminder that sometimes, what you see really is what you get, and while that may disappoint, ultimately it’s also cause for trust and hope. Lose Early is a sauntering rendition of dust to dust and a skewering of the lie that you have to sell your soul to eat, while Do You Love Me Any Less questions whether or not absence hinders affection.
The haunting and heart-breaking Christmas In Huntsville was written by original Stragglers fiddler Dana Hazzard and is the only track Boland didn’t pen. Images of Christmas at home flood the imprisoned narrator’s mind as he heads to his execution for a murder he didn’t commit. Closer Fuck, Fight, And Rodeo kicks out the footlights in a two-minute, hell-in-a-hand-basket hoedown.
Holy Relic Sale is a stunning example, and one of the songs that makes Boland most proud. “My wife’s got a pair of lucky blue socks,” he says. “One day, we just had an awesome day – everything went right. We got home, and she pulled the socks out of the dresser and said, ‘I thought I had these on all day.’ It’s the classic story of ‘it’s not the things.’ The things are there to remind you to concentrate on the positive facts of life. The little relics that we have are going to wear out or get lost, but the light and the energy are within you.”
Now that the void for smart, substantive country music is finally beginning to be populated, those who have been yearning for it have been heard. However, with Squelch, Jason Boland & The Stragglers remind us that it was out there all along, we just needed to look a little harder.