About three-fourths of the way through a phone interview about his band The Stragglers’ new album, Jason Boland wryly jokes:
"We’re just really fortunate guys, and to a bunch of slackers like us, it’s still amazing that we’re doing what we’re doing."
The Stragglers have included a few staff changes over the years, but the current lineup— Boland, drummer Brad Rice, bass player Grant Tracy and fiddler Nick Worley — is anything but a bunch of slackers.
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Jason Boland and the Stragglers have been going strong for nearly 20 years. Their mix of honky-tonk dancehall numbers and introspective wit have made them a Texas country staple, packing dancehalls around the state and the country. On May 18, the band is set to debut their 9th album, "Hard Times Are Relative."
Jason Boland and the Stragglers. (L-R): Grant Tracy, Brad Rice, Boland and Nick Worley.All Eyes Media
The album starts with "I Don’t Deserve You," an upbeat steel guitar dance number aided by Sunny Sweeney.
From there, the album ebbs and flows, with the wilting notes of a steel guitar and the rousing piercings of a fiddle soundtracking songs about love, loss, and all the hard times in between.
But while the stories some of these songs tell might end in sadness, the music never sounds morose. Boland’s signature baritone, always authoritative but accessible, never lets the proceedings get that dour. Here, on songs like "Going Going Gone," Boland’s wry enough to turn a baseball phrase into a leaving song. "Dee dee Od’d" is a rollicking, hard-charging ode to The Ramones, complete with the rapid-fire structure of a punk song. "Tattoo of a Bruise" is a fiddle, steel guitar-and drum-filled meditation on how to learn from past mistakes.
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"I just thought the idea of someone who wallows in the past so much that they would celebrate their own downfall," Boland said. "That’s a tough line- How much do you remember and learn from the past versus wallow in it?"
And the album reaches one of its lyrical heights in "Predestined," where Boland issues a challenge of circumstance to the listener.
Then there’s the title track, an epic about an orphaned brother and sister who must now live off of the land to survive.
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"It’s just me and my sister, a dog and a piece of land," the song begins. ‘My sister’s name is Darlene and the dog is called Cheyenne. Our folks both passed away last fall in the fire at the mill. We get by on the garden and whatever we can kill."]]