Jason Boland Brings Red Dirt to Georgia Clay

Sam Gazdziak | November 23rd, 2009

Imagine a concert where you don’t hear an electric guitar solo until about an hour into the performance, but fiddles and steel guitars abound in almost every song. Imagine the cover songs are from Gram Parsons, Don Williams and Merle Haggard. Imagine the lead singer is singing about drinking, love and loneliness, all done from the perspective of someone who’s actually lived that life.

Oh, and that the opening song was about how Hank wouldn’t make it in Nashville today.

While it may not sound like it (no costume changes or giant hamster balls?), this was, in fact, a country music concert–one as performed by Jason Boland & The Stragglers. The favorites of the Texas music scene headed east to play for a fairly eclectic crowd at The Peachtree Tavern in Atlanta on Friday night. The sizable crowd of Texas ex-pats, college seniors (and underclassmen with fake IDs) and slightly older country fans were primed and ready for the show, singing along to Boland’s songs, from older tunes like “When I’m Stoned” and “Pearl Snaps” to newer ones from his Comal County Blue album, released last year.

This was a crowd that, despite its relative youth, not only cheered for the Don Williams shout-out but sang along enthusiastically to “Tulsa Time.”

This was my first experience with Boland’s music, and I was pleasantly surprised by what I heard. Based on acts like Reckless Kelly and Ryan Bingham, I was under the impression that most of the Red Dirt scene was made up of rough-voiced singers decidedly on the “alt” side of the alt-country line. Boland, though, has a strong, pure voice that couldn’t sing anything else but country even if he tried. The band is rock solid, featuring Noah Jeffries’ on fiddle and Roger Ray on steel, electric and resophonic guitar, and even when they rocked out, it was still country rock and not ’80s hair metal rock.

This concert was a perfect antidote for anyone who’s become frustrated by the lack of balance in mainstream country music, and a reminder that country doesn’t need pop or rock elements to still kick ass.

  1. Justin
    November 23, 2009 at 9:11 am

    Hands down the best show I’ve ever seen was Boland at The Parrish @ HOB in New Orleans. They’re musicianship is unrivaled. Can’t wait to share the stage with these guys!

  2. Steve M.
    November 23, 2009 at 9:21 am

    Jason Boland is a pure country singer. Which of course he will never be played on the radio.

  3. Brady Vercher
    November 23, 2009 at 9:43 am

    The stuff comin’ out of the Texas music scene has so much more to offer than the gravel-voiced rockers. That first cut you mentioned was actually done by Eleven Hundred Springs as well (I think they wrote it). Glad to see you finally gettin’ with it and joinin’ the Jason Boland wagon, though. Now I’m just waiting for the inevitable cringe-inducing comment from Rick…

  4. Kelly
    November 23, 2009 at 10:41 am

    Agree with Brady. I’ll add that people often confuse the overall Texas musical landscape with “Red Dirt”. Most people will tell you that Texas country mainstays such as James MCMurtry, 1100 or Dale Watson arent “Red Dirt”. Danny Balis, Darryl Lee Rush and Somebody’s Darling are from Dallas and are country and have built loyal followings, but also arent considered “Red Dirt”…

  5. Mike
    November 23, 2009 at 11:40 am

    I saw them two weeks ago in Arlington, VA. I’m now a Don Williams fan after hearing Boland’s version of Tulsa Time. Time in Hell, dedicated to a fan who’s in the military, is always my favorite to hear live.

  6. Rick
    November 23, 2009 at 11:41 am

    An Aussie friend sent me a copy of Jason’s “Comal County Blue” and I was completely underwhelmed with the music. I really wanted to like this guy’s CD since he was a big supporter of Sunny Sweeney when she was still back in Texas. The Texas Regional / Red Dirt scene stuff I’ve heard encompasses a broad range of artists and styles, but the downside is that much of it is as mediocre as Nashville’s Top 40 output these days. Texan’s just can’t be objective when it come to this home grown stuff…

  7. Steve M.
    November 23, 2009 at 11:47 am

    try the Live at Billy Bob’s CD. he and the band knock the performance out of the park. “Proud Souls’ has remained my favorite of his-in fact reminds me a hell of a lot of my own life.

  8. Kelly
    November 23, 2009 at 11:55 am

    Objectivity, huh? No offense, I wouldnt say that is one of your strong-suits, Rick.

    Saying that Boland is a great example of real “Texas music” as compared to many Red Dirt artists is pretty fair. “Objectivity” really doesnt play into this equation.

  9. Leeann Ward
    November 23, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    I’m a fan. I particularly like Jason’s warm voice.

  10. Ben Milam
    November 23, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    boland has a great country voice. he’s bounced back from the throat problems very well. while they’re not the best texas has to offer, they are certainly far from the worst. i was happy to see them cover ball and chain by social distortion. in my opinion, the best johnny cash song that cash never recorded.

  11. Rick
    November 23, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    Leeann, I don’t mind Jason’s singing voice, its the quality of his songs I consider a bit of a letdown as they just strike me as generic Texas music.

    Now if Jason sounded more like Dallas Wayne belting out “I’m Gonna Break Some Promises Tonight”, I’d be far more interested. That Dallas Wayne song, and others by different artists, are free downloads at Amazon as part of a Texas Music Sampler that was probably announced here long ago that I ignored…
    Free Download Link:

    Kelly, I have no idea what you are referring to! (lol) Oh no, this isn’t about those over rated Wrinkle Neck Mules is it? Sheesh.

  12. scooter
    November 28, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    I really don’t like a lot of the soft rock stuff trying to pass for country that comes out of Texas and Oklahoma lately either. But I’m a fan of Jason Boland and can’t wait to see them live.

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