Jason Boland and the Stragglers have released a new country album that sounds old. This isn't to imply that the sound is aged in a negative way; they have a classic country maturity that isn't heard too much these days with the exception of Jamey Johnson.
For those not familiar with the music of Boland, the first track is a great way to decide whether this is your kind of country music. The title track is a mid tempo country song reminiscent of the late Waylon Jennings. This is followed with Electric Bill, a musical blend of Hank Cochran influences and Rodney Crowell's Couldn't Leave You if I Tried. The haunting closing track See You When I See You showcases Boland's ability to wring deep emotion from a simple song. For the most part the songs roll along at a slow speed, creating a melancholy atmosphere. The lyrics match the melancholy most closely in They Took it Away, a song about stolen land and broken promises.
While the band manages to carve out their own sound with well written songs, the ghost of Jennings hovers closely over the album. While this can be attributed to Boland's deep voice and lyrical nuances, having Shooter Jennings as producer may have helped tap into the influences that the group has flirted with on past releases.
Boland has crafted an easy going country album, complete with plenty of fiddle and Dobro adding contrast to his steady rhythm section. He is frequently lumped into the Red Dirt scene, but his music leans more towards Hank Cochran's Texas country than the rock and roll influences a lot of those scene bands incorporate. This isn't typical mainstream country music, but for those who are unafraid to look beyond Clear Channel, "Dark & Dirty Night" is a wonderful introduction to a country band in its prime.