Jason Boland & The Stragglers

Jason Boland & The Stragglers

This is country music.In a recent commercial-country star's genre-defining song, the act of singing about Jesus, tractors and little towns is portrayed as an unfashionable act that runs counter to the current of societal norms. Rebellion is drinking a cold one, getting a little loud, although it's never mentioned what the country folk are getting loud about. Country music seems to be an increasingly neutered genre, where nothing at all is said, where a hit song that welcomes a world where a black man could become president was seen as a bridge too far by some. Contrast that discomfort with the bravery of an artist like Merle Haggard producing a song like "Irma Jackson" in the late 1960s. That The Hag is name-checked by so many current country stars as an influence is ironic, given that the bravery exhibited in this one song is greater than the combined bravery of every artist currently on the country chart.

Into this tepid landscape, Jason Boland releases his latest album, Rancho Alto. Even though its songs are not likely to be topping the country charts anytime soon, Jason is adamant that this is country music. "It may fit in with some other types of music, like Americana maybe, but I'm not ready to give up on the idea that country music can be relevant," says Jason. "And country music is what I play. My fans are George Strait fans. They go to the dancehalls to see shows. I know these people. They are more capable of complex thought than the country music industry thinks they are."

Jason was born and raised in Harrah, Oklahoma (like the casino he says – "there weren't any around where I grew up, I used to joke, and now there are") and went to college at Oklahoma State University, where he formed a band with some like-minded mates. Jason Boland and The Stragglers went on to become one of the most popular bands of that region, having released five albums since 1999 and having played in front of millions of fans during that time. Boland has certainly had his challenges along the way. His fraternal college drinking turned into frightening full-blown alcoholism, and was ultimately admitted to Sierra Tuscon Rehabilitation Center for 28 days in October of 2005. In 2008, as his most recent studio album Comal County Blue was being released, he ruptured a polyp on his vocal chord, and doctors thought that he might not be able to sing again. Because the journey has been difficult, Jason operates with a deeper resolve to say something worth saying.

Many of the characters that populate Rancho Alto are struggling and reacting to their travails. The album's lead track, "Down Here In The Hole," tells of a miner who is stuck


in a cave-in, maintaining hope despite his predicament ("I'm finding out when troubled, the sprit can glow"), but also ruminating on the limited options that put him in the hole to begin with ("Some say I fell between the cracks and some say I was shoved").

Less resigned to his fate is the protagonist of "Pushing Luck," a man who has been living outside the law in order to take care of his family. He sees little difference between his "hustle" and the government's, where the government has taken money to perpetuate its existence, and with which it has funded the assault on his homestead. He has a bulletproof vest on, underneath his overalls, and stands ready to fight the power.

Rancho Alto has moments that are not quite as fraught with political tension. Jason has two outright love songs on this album. "I never really wrote love songs before," he says, adding that having found a stable love allowed him to channel these sentiments more readily than before. "Mary Ellen's Greenhouse" is a love song of a different sort, written for the mother of one of his first band mates, who would let the trio put on jam sessions in her greenhouse, as well as feed them. "I wanted to write a song to thank those people who support us broke-ass musicians and allow us to do what we do." Boland also shows his immense imagination, songcraft and reverence for country music in "False Accuser's Lament." He takes a Rosencrantz and Guildenstern turn on the classic country song "Long Black Veil," where the song is sung from the point of the view of the accuser whose false testimony led the protagonist of the original song to his execution.

But at heart, this album is about embracing the truths that country music used to tell, but that it can seemingly no longer stomach telling. That spirit is behind two of the covers that Jason chose to record for the album. One is the legendary Bob Childers' "Woody's Road," in which Jason sings about reaching out to the helpless and hopeless "and the folks nobody wants to know." In the final song of the album, the Greg Jacobs-penned "Farmer's Luck," Jason tells the tale of a farmer who made his living and raised his family on his bottomland farm, only to have the government declare eminent domain on his land, dam the Canadian River and turn that bottomland farm into the bottom of a lake, made for recreational purposes. Power makes a cameo, declares it progress and leaves the stage. Meanwhile, people grill out and water ski, never considering a man's home, life and labor were put asunder for their recreation.

It used to be that a country artist would sing about the farmer that lost his land. Now they glorify that party at the lake. For those of you who love country music, but hate what it's become, Jason Boland will sing you back home.

"There has always been pop music, but country music was always the avenue out of adolescence and into the grown up world with grown up issues like responsibilities and family. Someone's got to keep it alive, to preserve that kind of sound. That was our aim with this record."

Jason Eady's extensive background in "grown up issues" is what explains why the word "poet" is so frequently associated with his name. A six-year stint in the US Air Force as a translator placed him in a slew of foreign cultures giving him a universal look into the nature of human beings and a good jumping off point for his comprehensive lyrical translations. The Mississippi native and Texas transplant has spent the last seven years in an incubation period undergoing a musical metamorphosis that has led him through lonesome delta blues, inspirational church house harmonies, poetically spun tales of Americana and into the naked and honest regions of good ole' country music.

His three previous record releases have laid an impressive foundation starting with his 2005 debut FROM UNDERNEATH THE OLD (produced by Walt Wilkins and Tim Lorsch). That was followed by his 2007 sophomore release, WILD EYED SERENADE (produced by Eady), which was tagged as the Top 50 Albums of the Year by the No Depression reader's poll and reached #14 on the Americana Music Chart. WHEN THE MONEY'S ALL GONE (produced by Kevin Welch) is the last anyone has heard from Eady, until now.

AM COUNTRY HEAVEN, Eady's fourth record release, originated as a side project with friend (and producer) Kevin Welch. The plan was to lay down some old school authentic country music out of sheer self-indulgence and as a labor of love. As the recordings got underway more and more people appeared in the studio contributing their ideas and adding their personal touches until their side project evolved into what is the highly anticipated album everyone is talking about. Eady says, "I love that old school country music so much. There doesn't seem to be a whole lot of artists doing it these days. It's almost the opposite…like people are running away from it. I admit that this record is a drastic departure from anything I have done before, but this is where my heart is."

AM COUNTRY HEAVEN features Redd Volkaert on guitar, Earl Poole Ball on piano, Tom Lewis on drums and Kevin Smith on acoustic bass - all members of Austin's all-star team of country music players called Heybale. Combined, they have recorded and toured with artists such as Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, Johnny Cash, Junior Brown, Dale Watson, Connie Smith and Johnny Bush. They're responsible for the southern swagger on this album's tunes like "AM Country Heaven" and "I'll Sure Be Glad When I'm Wrong." Add legendary pedal steel player Lloyd Maines on the soulful "Longer Walk In The Rain" and "Lying To Myself" and a special vocal appearance from the incomparable Patty Loveless on "Man On A Mountain" and Eady's rich baritone timber, and what you have is a pure honky-tonk affair in the tradition of all the great troubadours that came before him.

In addition to his own albums, his talent for prose has been embraced by his peers landing him two cuts on Micky and The Motorcars' latest record RAISE MY GLASS, one cut on Eleven Hundred Springs' forthcoming record and two co-written cuts on The Trishas' forthcoming record. Eady also co-penned The Trishas' latest single "Drive." Although the radical departure that is AM COUNTRY HEAVEN is sure to strike fans like a storm without warning, it seems that Eady is merely living up to his reputation for the element of surprise as perfectly stated by USA Today who said, "This Mississippi native's blues-rocker creeps up like gathering thunderheads."

$20.00 - $25.00

Tickets Available at the Door

For dinner reservations upstairs, before the show, phone 212 255-4544. This will be a STANDING ROOM ONLY SHOW. Table reservations will be for upstairs prior to the show.

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Jason Boland & The Stragglers with Jason Eady

Wednesday, October 9 · Doors 9:00 PM / Show 9:30 PM at Hill Country

Tickets Available at the Door