Atlanta Review29Nov, 2009
Jason Boland Brings Red Dirt to Georgia Clay
Sam Gazdziak | November 23rd, 2009 Email Share
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.