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Jason Boland & The Stragglers

Comal County Blue – 2008 (Proud Souls Entertainment)

Reviewed by Don Armstrong

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CDs by Jason Boland & The Stragglers

Jason Boland and the Stragglers show greater sophistication than at least one better-known band in assailing a fellow Texan. "You bet they'd sing a different tune if a flood had hit D.C.," Boland asserts in the Hurricane Katrina critique Sons and Daughters of Dixie. Throughout the Stragglers' fifth studio release, the references are oblique, the attitude cool, the musicianship sharp - thanks partly to the production of Lloyd Maines - and the lyrics insightful.

Boland, who wrote or co-wrote 11 of the 12 songs, credits Jesus for his well-known triumph over alcohol in Bottle By My Bed but is saucy enough - pardon the pun - to suggest, on God Is Mad at Me, that earthly love may have compromised his heavenly devotion. Not much compromises his songwriting or smooth delivery. There's not a low moment on the disc. One of the highlights is the melancholy title track. Another is Something You Don't See Everyday, on which Boland returns to politics - specifically, the Iraq war - but offers a distinctive take, railing against self-righteousness. There may be a fine line between that and seeing beyond others' vision. Credit Boland with the latter and for doing it with style.