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Dec 10, 2021
By Megan BledsoeThe idea that Jason Boland’s latest album is a concept record about alien abduction will be polarizing to many. It will be met with varying degrees of curiosity, suspicion, and skepticism. There will likely be those whose first inclination is to ignore it, if not because of its December release date, then certainly because of the strange narrative of a cowboy who is abducted by aliens in the 1890’s and transported a century into the future. But to overlook this album would be a disservice to both the listener and to the project itself, for not only has Jason Boland succeeded to pull off something entirely unique to country music with the telling of this story, he has also managed to do so in a remarkably accessible and compelling manner. This album is special both because it dares to tackle these subjects at all and because it is about much more than UFO’s and time travel; rather, this is simply the lens through which our narrator examines the world as he embarks on the existential search for truth and meaning that is common to us all.
As noted in “Transmission Out,” many of us are confronted, at some point in our lives, with the unexplainable. These confrontations can come in the form of religious experiences, visions, or, in our narrator’s case, the life-changing encounter of a mysterious light shining through the trees one night. “I saw the light, but more importantly, the light saw me,” Boland explains in the title track. The narrator is forced to reevaluate his view of the supernatural, and despite his warnings in “A Tornado & the Fool,” no one around him seems to pay attention. Nevertheless, he remains convinced of the things he saw, at once awed and horrified by this new reality, as conveyed in the stirring opener, “Terrifying Nature.”
Our hero, however, is concerned with far more than just convincing us of his encounter with the supernatural. Perhaps most troubling are his observations of modern society. Once he has arrived in the future, he is dismayed to learn that it is not the paradise he had imagined it might be. He comments on the ghosts of people “staring down at their phones” in the atmospheric “Straight Home” and on “Here for You,” he laments the people’s lack of care for the amount of oil they burn. On the same track, he asks himself, “Could humanity be in decline?” The future, it seems, is a lonely, godforsaken place, and this characterization of it by an outsider from the past paints a much starker picture than that which might have been conveyed had Boland chosen to write more directly about these subjects.
Throughout the journey, however, the one thing that seems to remain constant and true, even across the barriers of space and time, is love. The narrator promises that he will always be there for the ones he loves on “Here for You,” as he journeys away from them into the unknown. On “Straight Home,” he is simply looking for a way to reverse this course and return to the world he knew and the people he loves. The cover of Bob Childers’ “Restless Spirits” fits flawlessly into this narrative as well, as if the account of a wandering soul who is strengthened by the vision of his wife in the kitchen so that he can go on another day without her was especially written for the lost, lonesome cowboy of The Light Saw Me.
Sonically, this album contains some of the most engaging material from Jason Boland & the Stragglers in many years. Such a tale as this one is rarely communicated through the medium of country music, but, like all Jason Boland albums, this one is decidedly traditional, with plenty of fiddle and steel to go around. However, The Light Saw Me is also unique in that it captures more of the live feel of a Boland concert, with more extended solos and participation from the Stragglers than what is found on most of their studio albums. The Shooter Jennings influence in the production is evident and welcome as well, adding a darker edge and more of a country rock element to certain tracks. The extended outro of "The Tornado & the Fool” perfectly captures both the chaos of a tornado touching down and the battle raging within our narrator’s mind about the reality of what he has seen. The electric guitar riff on “Terrifying Nature” cannot be described as anything other than catchy, and the atmospheric feel of “Straight Home” enhances the desperation and loneliness conveyed by the lyrics. It is as though Boland, the Stragglers, and Jennings recognized instinctively that in order to draw listeners in, given the subject matter, extra care would need to be taken to ensure the songs were accessible musically, and indeed, that extra care is the intangible thing which elevates this album from a good one to an excellent, rare piece of art.
The endeavor to produce a concept record about alien abduction and time travel is something to be commended in and of itself, and especially the aspiration to render such a record within the scope of country music. Jason Boland & the Stragglers not only succeed in their endeavor, but also manage to deliver an album that is highly accessible, both musically and lyrically. The Light Saw Me is more than the story of a hapless cowboy forcibly being uprooted from his homeland and thrust into an uncertain future; rather, it is the universal, compelling tale of all who have wandered through this life searching for meaning and of the kind of love which, beyond all reason and across oceans of space and time, somehow seems to endure.
The Light Saw Me is available everywhere now.
Feb 1, 2021
Jul 17, 2020
The Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Tourism division is launching a new promotion to bring attention to the state’s country music scene, but they may be stepping on some toes. “Our dirt is redder,” laughed department chair Henry Dix. “And better.”
That’s even the tagline for the advertising campaign, which will appear in major print publications and a nationwide television advertisement. The marketing format seems to claim that Georgia’s “red dirt” music scene is greater than that of the beloved (and much longer lived as an actual scene) Oklahoma network of songwriters and musicians.
|Hank Dix, Tourism Director
Farce the Music spoke with Dix about the Georgia Red Dirt promotion.
FTM: You’re aware that Oklahoma has had a Red Dirt scene for decades, and that Georgia has never had a music scene by that name?
Dix: Indeed! Otherwise, our motto wouldn’t make sense. Better than what?? Better than Oklahoma, that’s what! And we do really have red dirt.
FTM: Great. So, you’ve either just copied the nomenclature from an existing format of music, or pulled it out of your a** and expect it to take? You can’t give yourself a nickname.
Dix: Think of it as “giving that name a better home.” Good artists copy, great artists steal… as they say. If you look at it by pure sales, our scene dwarfs theirs in every category. Thus, we plan to trademark the term, and possibly allow them to continue its use in lower case.
FTM: That’s some shady dealing there, but all’s fair in business it seems. You say your artists sell better. Who, exactly, are you considering to be “Red Dirt” in the Georgia music scene?
Dix: Have you ever heard of Luke Bryan? I thought so. That man alone has sold more albums and concert tickets than nearly every ragweed from Oklahoma combined. Oh, and we claim half of Florida-Georgia Line too. Just half their sales puts us over the entirety of their artists when added to Bryan’s sales. Then there’s Brantley Gilbert, a more humble and soulful songwriter than ever existed in Still Waters.
FTM: It’s “Stillwater.” And hold up. You’re claiming national artists who have already made it in the mainstream as “Red Dirt” artists?
Dix: And why not? They’re from here, many still live here, and they play here once or twice a year on tour. They bring more to our economy than Stoney LaDue ever brought to that dust bowl.
FTM: Gross. And it’s “LaRue.” You don’t even know what a music scene is, do you?
Dix: Music evolves, terminology evolves. They’re just jealous. Justin Boland couldn’t shine Colt Ford’s boots.
FTM: It’s “Jason” Boland. And their scene isn’t about platinum sales and laser shows and dancing at concerts. It’s about integrity and the love of music. You’re making a mockery of the name Red Dirt.
Dix: I’ll tell you about mockery. Nobody ever heard of 90% of their so-called artists. If music isn’t popular, it isn’t good. It’s about the bottom line, not well-written lines. Who the hell are the Red Dirt Rangers, LMAO (he said this aloud)? Are they some redneck Power Rangers? And the Turnrow Troubadours? LOL (again, said out loud), they got Yoko’d before they could even sell out Bridgestone.
FTM: That’s offensive, and I’ve heard enough, and it’s “Turnpike.” You are an idiot.
Dix: And a good day to you too, sir! Before I go, everybody make sure to check out our up and coming Red Dirt® artists Sam Hunt, Jason Aldean, and Thomas Rhett!!
FTM: F**k off.
At press time, Oklahoma’s Red Dirt scene had just claimed Garth Brooks, and taken the lead in the sales category.
Nov 11, 2019
Jun 1, 2017
Wanna go to the FGL restaurant when we visit Nashville?
Name Ryan Adams' second solo album
Nope, still couldn't see much country on the country chart
When your coworker saw Boland last night and didn't invite you
When you hear Paycheck playing at your neighbor's place
Are Cody Jinks and Colter Wall real country singers?
What it sounds like to me when somebody tries
to explain how Sam Hunt is country
All of Blake Shelton's new music is either stupid or...
Apr 24, 2014
Garth Brooks Comeback
& How On Earth Did Everything Get This Weird?
This was a reply I made to a non-country music loving friend of mine on Facebook. It's unedited so I take responsibility for all typos & nonsense. Thank you Kelly Manning for pushing this to the front of my mind.
Garth Brooks looks like a St Bernard that wears a cowboy hat. But yeah, he was kind of a big deal I guess. I'd still trade him & Clint Black to get Chris LeDoux (the guy Garth pretty well copied his live show from & that's not meant as a slam on Garth) back on this earth.
I'll admit, after I saw your post, I actually watched a good bit of it. I was a little disappointed that he basically only played snippets of songs, but he was personable & engaging & wasn't wearing girl jeans or earrings (cough, Luke Bryan, cough Jason Aldean) and he wasnt using AutoTune, and he carried a show with just him, a guitar & whatever chemical assistance was used...I mean seriously dude, you should NOT be that excited about Jackson Browne! There's some Bolivian Marching Powder involved in that. Jackson Browne doesn't get that excited about his own songs!
I'm pretty interested to see what his next career move is, whether he ever actually drops a new album & what it sounds like. Commercial country music is flailing & drowning in red ink, thus the increasing willingness to throw gimmicks out there & desperately hope one sticks. I'm sorry but Jawga Boyz, FL/GA Line, and about 3/4 of the content on any given hour of CMT programming is not country music, or even anything resembling good music. There's talent in the genre, but it's largely pop talent marketed as (sort of) country (Taylor Swift), relegated to the sidelines because the record companies will not allow them to make & release to radio the music they want (Jamey Johnson) or reduced to making ridiculously bad country-rap parodies (PLEASE tell me that "Boys Round Here" is a parody) like Blake Shelton, Luke Bryan (who is a world class jerk & has an unnerving fetish for dry humping drum kits in a drunken fit of mid-concert copulation fever), Jason Aldean or nearly any male star not named George Strait or Zac Brown.
Folks might not be aware of it, but radio playlists have gotten smaller as Clear Channel has snatched up stations, removed local DJ talent from the equation & created a monopoly of terrestrial radio. As the value of radio airplay dwindles the industry has basically shot itself in the foot (with #00 buckshot) by promoting as stars people who can't sing without computer assistance or engage a crowd or do many other things a star should be able to do. When people are exposed to the true musical talent of even a mediocre musician like Garth (GREAT showman & marketer though), it makes the posturing & pandering of the current Nashville wasteland look every bit as hollow & silly as it is.
When an artist like Jamey Johnson can have the track record of success that he had with That Lonesome Song & The Guitar Song but he STILL can't get into a contract that allows him to choose 100% of his own material there is a huge problem, it's 1970 Nashville all over again & the outsiders are still out there, ready to make people care about country music again. It's coming, and while the standard bearers of the movement (The Great Divide, Bob Childers, Pinto Bennett on through Reckless Kelly, Jason Boland & The Stragglers, Ragweed & a few others) are either no longer performing together or not ideally positioned to be the next wave of truly great country music that achieves commercial success, there is a second generation ready & waiting & they are gonna make some noise when they get on the dance card. The current structure of commercial country music is so far overdue for collapse that it could implode in the next 10 seconds & nobody would be surprised. This means that bands that are accustomed to owning their own material, beating down the highway & playing live 200 nights a year are going to be ideally positioned for success. My money would be on Turnpike Troubadours as probably the smartest bet. They've got the chops, they're still quite young, and their grassroots following stretches world wide & grows daily. There will be plenty of competition, and it could be that they won't even want the crown, should it be offered, I just find it amazing that we have actually reached a point where GARTH BROOKS of all folks could be the tipping point that moves country music in a direction that's better for the music & the artists. If this comes to pass I will personally get a Chris Gaines poster for my office.
Mar 21, 2014
Tyler McCumber Band - Saracene Sessions: Tape 1
By Kelcy Salisbury
I just got a copy of the new Tyler McCumber Band album, Saracene Sessions: Tape 1. This is the first release I've heard from McCumber since Catch Me several years back.
Now to be fair, I would consider Tyler a friend although I've yet to meet him in person, so let me give a brief review of my impressions of Catch Me to put my thoughts of it in perspective to my feelings about this new release.
Catch Me had moments that hinted at talent and a well honed musicianship that seemed like there was SOMETHING there. What it was was difficult to pin down. Was McCumber a Kevin Fowler-esque slightly hackneyed self of "White Trash Farm" or was he the Randy Rogers type "Music Man" with a dash of Wade Bowen on "Hollis, OK" or was he the he the Hayes Carll type of "Uncle Sams Gun?" There were a lot of approaches but none seemed completely his OWN.
On Saracene Sessions: Tape 1, the total opposite is true & it's the best possible thing that could have happened.
Tyler refers to his music as "Rural Rock" and it truly is. Yes, it will hopefully and deservedly get airplay on TX Country radio. But it's not Texas country. It's no more country than Cross Canadian Ragweed in their Red Dirt heyday or Ray Wylie Hubbard at his greasiest.
This is the record The Tyler McCumber band had in them all along & I had my doubts until this week. McCumber isn't blessed with the greatest pipes in this business. His band isn't the musical titan of the scene (they are no slouches by any means either).
The record is the purest combination of storytelling songwriting, musicianship and production that I've heard all year. It may be the most perfect I've heard in 5 years.
I can't say the record grabbed me at first listen. I was preoccupied with family matters and listened to it only as background music. When I finally had the chance to pay attention tonight and really listen to it a couple of times through: HOLY BARKING SPIDERS BATMAN!
I can't really describe the album but to say that you can hear influences of many artists though it owes much more to ZZ Top than any traditional country influence. That is to say, it is funky, full of soul, garnished with blues elements, just country enough to garner country airplay and dripping with songwriting that tells of stories you can't disbelieve.
It's Texas music beyond a doubt, but the regional references aren't the clichés. There are dark stories aplenty but there is a message of positivity lying beneath the surface. This is a rare skill & one just being honed on Catch Me. There is nothing trite or hackneyed on this album.
"Whisky Shots & Stitches" is an early contender for Song Of The Year.
There is no doubting the stories McCumber tells & there is no question in the listener's mind that they are hearing the truth.
His voice fits the material perfectly and the production, while not perfect is just right for the music, if that makes any kind of sense.
The "political" songs "Don't Blame The Gun" & "Roughneck" ring of Charlie Daniels and Jason Boland, respectively, but the sound is all his own.
I don't know that I've heard a band or a songwriter grow this much between two albums any time in a decade or more and that's a huge part of my opinion. Tyler McCumber is a GREAT songwriter. Javi Garcia once told me so [Editor's Note: NAMEDROPPER!], but based in Catch Me I had my doubts. Those are erased.
Early contender for album of the year? Absolutely. Check Tyler OUT on Facebook or search www.lonestarmusic.com for copies. itunes soon I hope. This deserves to be heard.
This is an album I hope my daughter appreciates in 20 years. Granted, that may sound like hype, but it's the highest praise I can give an album of such great songwriting & Saracene Sessions: Tape 1 is deserving of all that.