Jason Boland & the Stragglers
Jason Boland & the Stragglers promote themselves as country outlaws, but if their new c.d. is any indication, they might be in a transition period.
The band’s first album in two years, The Bourbon Legends arrives as the success of “Pearl Snaps,” “Somewhere Down in Texas,” and “Mexico or Crazy” has almost completely faded. Since the band was started about eight years ago, it’s been content to stay firmly in the middle of the young, rowdy Red Dirt and Texas Music crowd. But Boland has said that The Bourbon Legend is the record that he and his band have always wanted to make. Produced by Grammy winner Pete Anderson (Dwight Yoakam, Buck Owens, Lucinda Williams), the c.d. seems to be about a weary honky-tonker examining his own life with, from time to time, the tiniest trace of humor. The Waylon Jennings influence is obvious and heavy, along with bits of Billy Joe Shaver, Johnny Paycheck, et al.
Boland has to make up for his singing limitations with words and music. While the performances are certainly competent, the instrumentals — guitars, drums, bass, pedal steel, banjo, and mandolin — kinda muddle toward the middle sonically and don’t leave much space around them. (Radio likes it that way.)
You know, frat boys turn 30, too, and eventually grow up. The “focus track” — the one that Sustain Records wants radio stations to play — is “No One Left to Blame (For the Things I Put You Through),” which is clearly an internal realization. The band also “Can’t Tell if I Drink (Because She Bitches, or She Bitches Because I Drink),” and turns a little poetic on “Everyday Life,” where Boland wants to “erase the roadmaps from my eyes.” The swagger is back, if a little less pronounced, on “Rattlesnakes,” which warns that “You better learn some respect for rattlesnakes, painted ladies, and cocaine.”
The Bourbon Legends isn’t a bad album at all. It’s just more of the sort of stuff you’ve heard before in one similar form or another. If this is your bottle of beer (or bourbon), cheers to you.