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Jason Boland & The Stragglers

Hard Times Are Relative – 2018 (Proud Souls / Thirty Tigers)

Reviewed by Bill Caruthers

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CDs by Jason Boland & The Stragglers

Jason Boland and The Stragglers serve up the ninth helping of their unapologetic, get it or not, country, in the past 20 years. This appears to almost be two EP's with the first mostly being a hard country dance cd and the second being a little more "out there" mix of fun and contemplative tunes, much less easy to categorize.

Beginning with the stone country "I Don't Deserve You," the Stragglers versatility shines against Boland's baritone (joining on background by Sunny Sweeney). The title cut is a Depression era tale of hardship and perseverance, much like old school standard "Miller's Cave," albeit with a much happier ending. "Right Where I Began" is a two-stepping throwback to vintage Boland, referencing drinking and lost love in straight-forward fashion. Also keeping the dancers happy is the shuffle tune "Searching for You," an upbeat ode to a lover who has gone on the down low. The line "...they say I've lost my balls" may be the most telling on the entire album. Next up is the waltz tune, "Do You Remember When," waxing nostalgic of how the home town has become homogenized like so many others.

At this point, the cd veers to another dimension. Notable cuts include: "Dee Dee OD'd," with nods to The Ramones and Nirvana, barrels in at just over two minutes in length. "Going Going Gone," which uses baseball jargon to describe being the first to leave. "Grandfather's Theme," written by fellow Oklahoma tunesmith, Randy Crouch, is an odd tune, at once nostalgic and contemplative as a grandfather muses on what his grandson might tell his own grandkids one day.

Hardcore Boland fans will love this album, but one suspects the first half of the album will wear out long before the second.