June 21, 2012

Jason Boland ~ Intimate Thoughts from a True Rodeo Cowboy

To see Jason Boland perform is to get the idea that he enjoys the solitude of life on the road just as much as the spotlights of the stage.  To get a chance to meet and talk to him you get the impression there is much more to the man than you might think behind that toothy smile.  Upon spending any particular length of time with him, you know there is a very worldly outlook that only years of hard living mixed with ‘time of reflection’ can create.  It has been these trials and outtakes that have produced six excellent studio albums and two live recordings over a very successful 15 year career.  We had a chance to sit down to talk with Jason recently and it was fascinating to hear his thoughts on topics such as where music stands today, where those clever thoughts that fill up his songs come from, and much, much more.

Seeing Jason perform an acoustic show at The Blue Moose Lodge, (located in Houston, TX on Washington Ave.) was like seeing  a man who is a master of his craft…yet always striving for more.  He is the consummate professional who is always trying to improve upon his talents—not only for his fans, but for himself as well.  When LoneStar Outlaw (LSO) asked when he knew this was his calling (given his booming baritone voice) he replied, “I still don’t.  Everything I’ve done I think to myself, “Man, I gotta do better the next time”.  I’m glad people listen but I don’t hear it.”  Which begs the question:  Is wanting to improve something that keeps you motivated?  “I think so.  I always think “I don’t wanna go out like that”. “

Jason is one of the lucky ones.  And by that...we don’t mean the endorsements, the notoriety, or fame.  He has found a craft that suites him to a ‘T’.  To which he says, “We got lucky.  If everyone was able to do what they love, the world would be a much better place.

His latest album is Rancho Alto—a critically praised record which seems to find Mr. Boland in a mellower state of being.  Jason says, “I think it’s much more of a country album.  Definitely more rootsy and rural than some of our other stuff.  Some of our material tends to delve into rock & roll a lot.  We’re another part of that fusion of ‘rock and country’ but we tried to put a lot of country into this album and it came out pretty hardcore.  It’s an album I’m proud of.

To be a fan of Jason’s music is to appreciate his clever way with words.  Songs such as “Shot Full of Holes”, “Telephone Romeo”, and  “Falling with Style” are just a tiny glimpse into back catalogue chockfull  of his witty, often autobiographical, lyrics.  “I have always seen words as having a lot of grey area in them.  In the English language…there is a lot of grey area to play around with; puns and funny ways to say things and words with different meanings.  I’ve always found that using this grey area is entertaining to do and I think it came from the songwriters I look up to on both the national level and a personal leve.  I don’t remember who actually said it but “songwriters find extraordinary ways to say things that are pretty simple and find simple ways to say things that are extraordinary.”  Most of the times those work.  If you look at a guy like Guy Clark, he takes a view of a common everyday observation and twists it around in a way you’ve never seen it, or shows an angle you’ve never seen it from.  I’ve just always enjoyed writers I thought were clever in that manner—guys like  Cash, Steve Earl, and Robert Earl Keen.  If you have a different way of looking at it and if you stick to your way, it’s gonna be original.”
Speaking of "having a way with words", LSO was pleasantly surprised to see one of JB's songs (“Telephone Romeo”) show up on a Kid Rock album.  How did that come about?  “He heard it on Satellite Jukebox with a mutual friend.  He liked it and then one thing led to another.  He and his song writing partner changed it a little to make it work for them and called it “Purple Sky”.  I was really flattered.

As with many artists, we found ourselves wondering if Jason Boland had a particular "favorite" song he'd written? "They were all my favorites at some point but I think "False Accuser's Lament" is about as good as I write a song.  I like "Between 11 and 2" as well."

Hearing that, we instantly had to ask him: what was the last song you heard and thought to yourself, “I wish I had written that?”  “Usually it’s a Todd Snider tune.  Snider blows me away.  He’s the complete package of folk, rock, country, thoughtfulness, compassion.  He’s a great human and I hope he thinks the same about himself.  But I guess the last song was “The Hobo Song” off Jack Bonus’ album, Old and in the Way.”  

Jason Boland and the Stragglers have seen more blacktop and greener pastures throughout this country than most of us can fathom.  Their current exploits take them over international waters into Playa Del Carmen, Mexico and then back up north to Sitka, Alaska for the “North to Alaska” trip (with fellow musicians Bleu Edmondson, Stoney Larue, Brandon Jenkins, and the Braun brothers that make up Reckless Kelley, and Micky and the Motorcars).  But it is in the small dance halls and honky tonks that he learned to hone his craft and (in our own opinion) seems to find more comfort.  We asked if the dance halls will survive given all the hard times hit upon by everyone.  “They’re having to ride out the bad times just like everyone.  It’s such an abundant music scene; people have choices to go watch live music all the time.  Which is great, but they can go see whoever, whenever and people are much choosier about how they spend their money.  The places that win out are the ones that have synergy such as Gruene Hall.  I think it’s really hit or miss but they keep fighting the good fight.” 

How has the landscape of music changed, both locally and nationwide?  “The bad has gotten worse.  Bands that used to ride the fence line with some decent Rock & Roll tunes, you think “Oh, they got me on that one”.  Now it’s all a bunch of house music auto tuned to death and it’s God awful.  We watched this scene get bigger and it’s gone through its life cycles.  This thing became its own entity with its own anthems and the social risers and the rotation through.  I hope that this scene will really fight to hang on to its roots.  And by roots I mean its spirit, its originality.  It already encompasses Rock & Roll, Western Swing, Folk, Honky Tonk; it has everything in it.  It’s had stuff that sounded like Nashville Country, but good Nashville Country.  I just wished they talked about something different in their songs.  I’ve seen Texas Country/Red Dirt music start to struggle with some of its originality but that goes back to money.  If the listeners get kidnapped by a pop anthem, who’s gonna fill up the dance halls?  Get out to Schroeder Hall and support the former bull riders who are singers now.  We’ve seen the growing pains, just like any other system, scene, or whatever.  It’s gonna be fine.

Lastly, the one thing on the road JB has to have would be…. “Coffee, definitely coffee.”

Jason Boland and the Stragglers have been a musical force since 1998 and to quote Jason, “We’re amazed and flabbergasted and pretty good at making it up as we go.”  They have proven time and again that there is a place for everyone in a scene and that genres are meant to be deviated or skewed at times.  You can do these when you have the musical chops to back it up.  Through all the albums, tours, and life lessons, Jason has remained a ‘down to earth’ and humble individual who makes you remember why you fell in love with music in the first place.  He is molded from the same cloth of musical icons of the past and we hope he continues to follow that path and make the music that keeps us all dancin’ and singin’ along…and most importantly, keeps him being honest with his own thoughts, creations, and art.  We’ve loved his stuff from the beginning…and can’t wait to see what’s yet to come for Jason Boland and the Stragglers. 

To learn more about Jason Boland and to find out where you can see him in a city near you, visit :

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Sample Setlist from JB Acoustic Show
@ Blue Moose Lodge ~ Houston, TX:

False Accuser's Lament
Tennessee Whiskey
Drinking Song
Big Shot Rich Man
Telephone Romeo
Paradise (Written by: John Prine)
When I'm Stoned
Angels Flying too Close to the Ground
Mary's Ellen's Greenhouse
Comal County blues
Shot Full of Holes
Somewhere in the Middle
Falling with Style
Somewhere Down in Texas
Pearl Snaps
Tulsa Time

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