Saturday, October 24, 2015

"Squelch" Album Review By Jason Boland & The Stragglers

"Squelch" is the aptly named title of Jason Boland & The Stragglers' brand new album.  It's the band's eighth studio production, continuing in the vein of their brand of traditional country music.  This is the highly anticipated follow up to 2013's stellar "Dark & Dirty Mile" and this time around, the subject matter is a little darker and the sound is grittier.

As with 2 other JBS albums, "Squelch" was recorded and mixed directly to tape.  This no frills approach means a warmer, worn-in feel to the album making it sound more like their live shows.  Along with the brilliant lyricism of Jason Boland's (lead vocalist, acoustic & electric guitar) words, The Stragglers are made up of Cody Angel (pedal steel, guitars), Brad Rice (drums, harmony vocals), Grant Tracy (bass guitar), and Nick Worley (fiddle, mandolin).

"Break 19" opens the album and sets the tone for the rest of the tracks.  A hard driving tune about our fast paced world and the backwards way things are ran in this country.  Meanwhile, "The First To Know" is a honky tonk number with a catchy melody full of pedal steel and fiddle.

The first single "Holy Relic Sale" is the most melodic song I've heard all year and is a personal favorite on the album.  It's a tune about people and their lucky charms, centered around a woman with her "lucky blue socks."  Another favorite is "Heartland Bypass," with its road weary drum beat and pedal steel coupled with heavy lyrics, "...Bypassing through the heartland...pumping power out to run the nursery rhyme...mainlining black sand...always paying out the interest on borrowed time..."

The only tune not penned by Boland or band mate Brad Rice (on "Lose Early") is the saddest one.  "Christmas In Huntsville" was written by former Straggler Dana Hazzard and chronicles the last days of a young man who's on death row for a murder he didn't commit.  Though it has a mid tempo beat, the lyrics are so vivid and heart wrenching.

"Do You Love Me Any Less" and "Bienville" are a couple of love ballads, the latter being another favorite.  A road trip song weaving the story of a man who met the love of his life with landmarks along the way.  The couple ends up spending their last dollars gambling and the song is left open ended for a part two on how they got home.

"Squelch" is another masterpiece in the long line of albums The Stragglers have released, politically and socially deeper than any of their previous work.  Anyone searching for traditional country with a side of meaningful lyrics, The Stragglers have you covered.  "Squelch" is undoubtedly one of the best albums of the year and is available now.