Showing posts with label Jason Boland and the Stragglers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jason Boland and the Stragglers. Show all posts

Jan 3, 2022

Megan's Top 11 Albums of 2021

These were counted in our year end poll.

 By Megan Bledsoe

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11. Brandi Carlile—In These Silent Days


10. Jack Ingram, Miranda Lambert, and Jon Randall—The Marfa Tapes

Perhaps it is only because of these songwriters’ stellar reputations that we are compelled to pay attention to a release like The Marfa Tapes. But the other side of this is that only special artists like these three could actually write and perform an entire album acoustically, with sounds of wind and fire and cows and planes echoing in the background, and manage to hold our attention simply because of the strength of the songs and the raw emotion and boundless charisma present in the delivery. It’s fair to say that anyone else who tried this would likely be ignored, but not many others could accomplish this with the same beauty and grace that Ingram, Lambert, and Randall have, keeping us listening long after the novelty of the approach has worn off and only the songs and performances remain.


9. Cole Chaney—Mercy


8. Carly Pearce—29: Written in Stone

What a joy to see an album like this emerging from Music Row and to watch Carly Pearce’s deserved success. To call Pearce’s divorce record  the best mainstream country album of 2021 would be true but would also be selling the project short; it is simply one of the best country records of the year, no qualifiers. The fact that it came to us from mainstream Nashville only serves to prove that hope still lingers on Sixteenth Avenue.


7. James McMurtry—The Horses and the Hounds

James McMurtry’s songwriting is like that of no other. His prose is vividly rich in detail but composed in such a plainspoken manner that it remains accessible and relatable to us all. There is something uniquely charming about his frankness, something inherently poetic and refreshing in reflecting on all of the world’s hardships and then expressing a problem so mundane as constantly losing one’s glasses. These ruminations constitute some of the best songs of the year, and McMurtry remains one of the most interesting songwriters of his generation.


6. Shane Smith & the Saints—Live from the Desert


5. Margo Cilker—Pohorylle

Margo Cilker’s debut album is a classic case of the sum being better than its parts. There are no lyrical masterpieces and nothing to reinvent the wheel from a musical standpoint. Nevertheless, the simple yet lush arrangements, the production which carefully and thoughtfully enhances each song, Cilker’s excellent capacity for writing melodies and hooks, and the sense of place and general mood surrounding this whole record all come together to make one of the year’s standout albums.


4. Amythyst Kiah—Wary + Strange


3.  The Steel Woods—All of Your Stones


2. Charles Wesley Godwin—How the Mighty Fall

Charles Wesley Godwin, through the poetry of his songs and the haunting qualities of his voice, has managed to set Appalachia to music. If Seneca was a perfect encapsulation of the place, then How the Mighty Fall can be called a perfect encapsulation of the region’s people. More than that, it is a commentary on desperation itself, both the circumstances which lead to it and the various lengths to which one will go when faced with it. Artists are often plagued by the idea of the sophomore slump, but Godwin second album is just as exceptional as his first.


Album of the Year: Jason Boland & the Stragglers—The Light Saw Me

The very audacity of the idea, the concept of making a country record about alien abduction and time travel, is proof enough of the innovation of Jason Boland & the Stragglers and should be applauded. But to pull it off so expertly and to somehow craft a story so universal and compelling is another thing entirely. Somehow, this eccentric album is one of the most accessible, engaging records of Boland’s career and demonstrates that country music can still cover new ground in 2021. Boland & the Stragglers prove that even within the confines of traditional country music, artists can still be creative, original, introspective, and forward-thinking.

Dec 10, 2021

Album Review / Jason Boland & The Stragglers / The Light Saw Me


By Megan Bledsoe

The 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.

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The Light Saw Me is available everywhere now.

Feb 19, 2020

Jesse Daniel Performs "Son of the San Lorenzo"

Jesse Daniel opens his set at Terminal West in Atlanta with “Son of the San Lorenzo,” the final cut of his forthcoming album Rollin’ On.

Daniel, playing a string of opening dates for Jason Boland & The Stragglers, made a bunch of new fans in Atlanta with his fresh imprint on the Bakersfield Sound. The new album’s out March 27. Pre-order it now, and check back in a few weeks for our exclusive, in-depth interview with this rising country music phenom. 

— Kevin Broughton

Nov 27, 2018

Americana Band's Van and Gear Not Stolen

by Trailer - Originally posted on Country California, Tuesday, June 17, 2014 
A popular roots rock band is not starting a Kickstarter page to defray the costs of a white 1998 Ford E-350 van and Pro-Line trailer with the band's logo on the side and $1700 in musical gear, which were quite shockingly not stolen after a recent Houston area gig. 

The Whiskey Hawks, of High Point, North Carolina, had just finished up their supporting set for Jason Boland at Dosey Doe in The Woodlands and ducked out a bit early. "We'd seen Jason and the guys a few times before and hung out some, and we were hungry, so we left around 9:30 for Waffle House," said drummer Gus Pounds. "And that's when it happened." 

Members of the four-piece Americana/punk/folk outfit were shocked by what they discovered. "I thought maybe the scattered-and-covered I'd had was messing with my head," explained lead singer Aaron Lavox, "but our van and trailer were still right there where we parked them." 

Police were not called to the scene of the un-stolen touring vehicle and 'drunken hawk' emblazoned instrument carrier, and aside from a small hole in a denim vest caused by an unextinguished American Spirit cigarette, no damage was reported. 

"I'm happy, you know, but I'm just thinking the whole time... is our stuff not good enough for you?" bassist James Squier wondered as he groomed his immaculate beard. "Even the cajon was still there ...what, nobody wanted that for an end table?" 

At press time, the Whiskey Hawks were contemplating a PledgeMusic campaign to fund an upcoming six-song covers EP of obscure Bellamy Brothers songs. 


Aug 2, 2018

Step Brothers Country Reaction Gifs

*some foul language*

When a coworker you thought was a jerk says he's into Tyler Childers and Whitey Morgan

When somebody's Brantley Gilbert ringtone goes off

When the room smells like Kane Brown fan

New Amanda Shires & Lucero albums Friday??

When you have a flashback to your mom taking you to a Rascal Flatts concert when you were little

When somebody's in your face saying Cody Jinks sucks

Brad Rice, probably...

Some dude from Billboard said "Meant to Be" is a country song


May 24, 2018

Pee Wee's Playhouse: Country Reaction Gifs


When she knows "Ring of Fire"

Why do some people enjoy Kane Brown?

Listening to the new Jason Boland &The Stragglers like...

"I wish Florida-Georgia Line was working at a drive-thru"

When Pee Wee says he really digs the Pine Box Boys

When the mail lady noticed you ordered a Luke Bryan candle

I got nothin' for this one but here's Dolly Parton with Pee Wee

When you're stuck in a house full of pop country fans









Jan 9, 2015

Kelcy Reflects on 2014, Chris Knight, Babies, etc.

Things I'm Glad I Experienced or Discovered in 2014:
by Kelcy Salisbury


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2014 was a momentous year for me in a lot of ways, personally & professionally. These are the best things that I experienced, discovered, or rediscovered in the past year, in no particular order.

Jason Boland & The Stragglers with Chris Knight live at Joe's on Weed Street.  

Joe's has a lot of history in "TX/Red Dirt" music, especially for a venue in Chicago. This past summer I checked 2 firsts off my list: I saw a show at Joe's & I saw Chris Knight. It was everything I'd hoped for & then some. I met Chris Knight - he killed a bunch of people in song - but I'm still here for now.

Ray Wylie Hubbard live was everything I'd hoped for & then some. Ray put on a great show in a really cool room, was gracious enough to put me on his guest list though we'd never met, and was just about the coolest cat to talk to that you'd ever hope to meet. Ray Wylie Hubbard is exactly who you think he is, only better.

I finally started listening to American Aquarium & now I'm sad that Burn, Flicker, Die didn't make it into my best of 2013 list. These guys are going to lead the charge to take back country music right alongside Turnpike Troubadours. They're the truth.

I discovered Fistful Of Beard a few months too late to ever see a live show, which is quite a shame, but they left behind one really good album.

I finally got around to listening to John Fullbright's solo stuff around the time my daughter was born. She's 10 months old & Song For A Child might be her favorite song.

I rediscovered, through my daughter, how much FUN music is supposed to be. She already loves music & she already knows how to find John Fullbright, The Trisha's, Jason Boland & Brandy Clark on my phone whenever she's feeling like an impromptu dance party. Her favorite dancing song is probably Mike Ness (of Social Distortion) covering I Fought The Law, and if you've never seen this child jam out to that song, I feel bad for you. 



Apr 11, 2014

Album Review: Jackson Taylor & The Sinners - Live at Billy Bob's Texas


By Kelcy Salisbury


Billy Bob's Texas has long been an outpost where independent musicians & their fans could gather. It's a unique place. Not a perfect venue but by far the most prominent (nationally speaking) venue that most non-Nashville country artists could reasonably hope to play. In the 1990s, Smith Music Group began to issue a series of live recordings from the legendary Ft Worth bar/tourist attraction. In conjunction with the Minnick family (Sam Minnick, former PRCA bull rider, stock contractor & judge. Pam Minnick, former Miss Rodeo America, and long-time rodeo television personality are a major part of running the bar, which has featured live bull riding for years.) the folks at Smith have created a brand within a brand in the music industry. Early releases were mostly mainstream country stars on the backside of their popularity such as David Allan Coe & TG Sheppard. Some time around the turn of the century Sam Minnick seemed to begin to have more of a hand in selecting the artists who were featured.  Sam's long-time friendship with Tuff Hedeman led to the decision to record seminal "Red Dirt" act Cross Canadian Ragweed (At the time Ragweed was frequently the featured entertainer at after parties on the Professional Bull Riders tour, of which Hedeman was president until 2004). The album was ground breaking in many ways, and led to more acts from farther outside the mainstream being selected to record an album for the Live At Billy Bob's series. Jason Boland & The Stragglers released perhaps the most critically acclaimed disc in the series in 2003. In 2009 Micky & The Motorcars became the first "TX/Red Dirt" (I despise the labeling) act to release a CD/DVD combo (the album is fantastic by the way). There have been missteps along the way, most notably the internet fan voting that led to a Shy Blakeman album recording that is rumored to have happened a couple of years ago, but overall the series has consistently offered fans a very consistent product. 

Last year it was announced that Billy Bobs & Smith had agreed to record what I believe to be the most outside-the-mainstream album in the series when Jackson Taylor & The Sinners were announced as the newest Live At Billy Bob's Texas artist. Now, Jackson is far from a newcomer, having released something like 11 albums over more than a decade & toured extensively, including sharing the stage with Jason Boland & many other artists who've frequently played Billy Bobs. There is no doubting Jackson's music, but he is just about the farthest thing from the mainstream that exists. He isn't really "Texas Music" although TX is very supportive of his music. Taylor's sound owes much more to the west coast, it's a heavy dose of the Bakersfield Sound run through a punk rock filter & liberally splashed with Social Distortion before being served up in all it's raw glory. In other words, it's what the modern evolution of country music should sound like, and probably would if not for monolithic corporations controlling the product. 

The album kicks off with "Jack Is Drunk Again", which aside from being the party anthem it is on the surface is also an affirmation of why Jackson Taylor won't be signing a Nashville record deal any time soon. There are 16 songs on the album, mostly old favorites that have (in some cases) been released on two or more albums in the past. Very little new ground is broken, but it really doesn't matter. The sequencing is pretty near perfect, and the band is on its A-Game. My only complaint is that (at least in the cd format) there are a couple of songs where the vocals sounded a bit buried in the mix to me (Blue Agave in particular) but overall the audio cd is a very solid addition to the Billy Bob's series. I don't think that it's the strongest album in the series, an honor that probably belongs to Jason Boland (more on that in a bit) but it's definitely a top 5 effort. Personally I'd rank it just below Boland & Micky & The Motorcars efforts. It could've been stronger due to the omission of the encore which left some of Jackson's strongest songs off the record. But there's still plenty here to love & it's a fine introduction to Jackson Taylor & The Sinners. 

The DVD is where this album truly shines though. All 16 tracks on the cd are found here, in the same sequence but this time the stage banter is left intact. The impact of "Old Henry Rifle," "Blue Agave" and "Bare Feet On The Dash" is greatly aided by this. The cover of "Ball & Chain" sizzles to life, even without Jason Bolands guest vocals. The Sinners' musicianship becomes more apparent & easy to appreciate, at least for a layman such as myself. 


The most fascinating part of the whole package though is the interview with Jackson that is interspersed between tracks on the DVD. We get Jackson's take on politics (surprise, he's VERY independent!), stories of his musical influences (especially Mike Ness of Social Distortion fame), his feelings on the recording of this album, and his gratitude towards two men who have made his career possible in some ways (Paul, to whom "Blue Agave" is dedicated & Jason Boland - who Jackson mentions as his "best friend" and a major influence several times). It's an interesting look at the thoughts of an artist who has truly been everywhere. 

Jackson is no cardboard cutout outlaw. He's lived the songs he sings, been to the edge & back more times than seems possible, and somehow is still here & making the best music of his career. He sounds like a man who has made peace with his past & is ready to make peace with the world. 

The absolute highlight of the album is the one new song, "Faulkner By The Dashboard Lights," a story about Jackson's father & childhood that does much to explain the man himself. If there was any kind of justice in the world this would be a hit single on country radio, so I'm pretty sure it won't be. 

Overall I'd suggest this album over even "Live Locked & Loaded At The Longhorn Saloon" as an ideal starting point for those unfamiliar with Jackson Taylor. I'd recommend the DVD as an absolute must-have if you're buying the album, and I'd hope that maybe someday soon we can see Jackson Taylor & The Sinners sharing a stage with Jason Boland & The Stragglers (a pairing that played a big role in Jackson's early days touring TX in particular) once again. 

The album begins with JT&S being introduced as the "greatest honky tonk band in the universe". That may be debatable, but I'd suggest that they are certainly the epitome of honky tonk.

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Live at Billy Bob's is available at Lone Star Music, Amazon, iTunes, etc.

Jan 3, 2014

Kelcy's Top 10 Albums of 2013 (and Then Some...)


2013 was a year packed FULL of great independent music, and even a good deal of what was released on mainstream labels had large glimmers of creativity and soul. Unfortunately for me, real life intruded in a big way, as the picture shows, so there are a solid 3 dozen albums I really want to hear & still haven't got to. So without further ado, here is a list of albums I came across this year (some of which were released in other years) that I feel like everyone should take a listen to, followed by a list of my top ten (of what I heard) that were released in 2013. I did exclude Jason Isbell's incredible release "Southeastern," not because it's unworthy, I think every adult in the country should buy a copy, but because its been covered so many times by better writers than I, that it felt redundant. 

Older albums that became new to me again this year:

Billy Joe Shaver: Tramp On Your Street. I've said it before, but this album, with its blistering guitar work by Eddy Shaver, is my all time favorite of the legendary songwriter's work. 

Guy Clark: Boats to Build. The master of his craft at the height of his powers. 

Micky & The Motorcars: Raise My Glass. To me this was the album that boosted the younger Braun brothers past Reckless Kelly on my personal hierarchy of independent country/rock bands. 

Pantera: Cowboys From Hell. THE seminal metal album of my late teens, I burnt out on it in 2000 or so but this year it felt right again. 

Childish Gambino: Camp. It's a fairly recent album but one I didn't listen to until Brad Rice suggested it. There isn't a lot going on in hip hop that interests me within the mainstream.  I find mainstream hip hop & country to be remarkably similar in their marketing & content. Childish Gambino is a breath of fresh air. 

Struggle: I Am Struggle. I'm not generally a fan of country/rap mixtures but this album makes it work.  Check out "Give Me My Flowers" & "Water Into Wine."

Waylon & Willie: Clean Shirt. Possibly the finest of their collaboration albums songs like the title cut & "Rocks From Rolling Stones" make this one a must have. 

Jarrod Birmingham: No Apologies. I've been a fan for years. This is an early album but cuts like "Like My Daddy Did" & "Walk Away" make it well worth owning. 

Jarrod Birmingham: Waitin & a Wishin.  Straight ahead honky tonk from a man who's been consistently making it for a decade plus. Jarrod appears to have been listening to Chris LeDoux records on repeat while writing this album, and that's not a bad thing at all. After listening to Copenhagen Circle I want to see him swap songs with Corb Lund.  He sounds like he's enjoying himself fully.


Top Albums for this year:

The list of albums I did not get to this year is far too long to get into so honorable mentions go to Charlie Robison, Cody Canada, Lucero (EP but still great), Lindi Ortega, JB Beverly & John Moreland. I wanted to give all these albums consideration but it was a tough & busy year. Also Tantric dropped my favorite "guilty pleasure" album of the year with 37 Channels. 



10) Shooter Jennings: The Other Life. 
Shooter finally fuses his psychedelic tendencies with traditional country and it...works. Standout tracks are Gunslinger (insert obligatory lyric warning), Wild & Lonesome, & 15 Million Light Years Away. 



Veteran hard rock band road warriors return with a disc that, while not a total departure from prior offerings, features a fuller & more orchestral sound. Something that some of their previous one off projects hinted at. Don't miss Cold As War & Dead Roses.  Plus, they remain a fun, high energy live band. 



Lincoln follows last years too album with another dark, bluesy album chock full of gospel type vocals & unique arrangements. It's odd that this album creates considerably less buzz than The Shovel vs The Howling Bones did. Don't miss The Ballad Of A Prodigal Son, Beautifully Sewn, Violently Torn & Sinner. 



7) Sturgill Simpson: High Top Mountain
This album probably deserves to be higher on the list but I didn't get to it until late in the year. Every song is a standout. Buy it. 



6) Ashley Monroe: Like A Rose
The title cut alone is well worth the purchase price. Ashley is exhibit A for the strength of female songwriting in country musics future. 



5) Kacey Musgraves: Same Trailer Different Park
Exhibit B would be this incredible effort by Ms Musgraves. Enough has been said about her music already, and most folks reading this list are familiar with it. The clever songwriting, solid musicianship & Kacey's great voice make it an album that may eventually be hailed as a major breakthrough for female artists in Nashville & traditional country in general. 



Another year another album for the most prolifically (allegedly) dysfunctional act in the "scene" (I hate that phrase.) this one is different though. Jackson is more at peace with who he is, the band has found the ideal mixture for their Buck Owens meets The Ramones meets Billy Joe Shaver meets Social Distortion sound & it all works. Highlights include Crazy Again, Makeup & Faded Blue Jeans, and Rain. 



I would venture to state that very few, if any, artist 15 years into their career (let alone with very nearly the same lineup) has released a consecutive trilogy of studio albums as consistently great as Comal County Blue, Rancho Alto & now this one, not to mention the outstanding live offering High In The Rockies. In any other year this would likely be the too album of the year & it is the best true "country" album of the year. The title cut is a masterwork, Lucky I Guess is the future staple love song of weddings in OK for years to come, They Took It Away is the perfect Bob Childers tune to cover & Spend All Your Time finds Jason's songwriting in the increasingly reflective mode it has taken on with maturity & peace. Roger Ray's guitar work is genius as per normal, Nick Worley has proven a worthy peer on fiddle, Grant Tracy holds down the bass line as he has for 15 years now & Brad Rice continues to be criminally underrated for his drum work. Once again the Stragglers have produced an under appreciated masterpiece that is perfect for our times. 



There's not much to be said about this album I didn't say in my earlier review but it has grabbed me even stronger since. It's a strung out, twisted, dark, pulsing, living organism of an album and you need to listen to it. 



I couldn't pick between this one & Javi's album, so I've got a tie at the top. If you like your music with a heaping helping of soul, dark brooding drum & bass lines that call to mind old Black Sabbath albums & outstanding harmonies this is the album for you. I'd be hard pressed to find 3 better songs in a row than Stable Hand, Yellow Rose & Train Rolled Home. These are essential, but the whole album is great & I look forward to hearing what new sounds this band makes in the future. 


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-Kelcy Salisbury

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