Jason Boland and the Stragglers: Squelch

Photo: Daran Herrman

Red Dirt veteran Jason Boland turns in his most introspective (and rowdy) LP yet.

Jason Boland and the Stragglers


Label: Thirty Tigers / Proud Souls
Release Date: 2015-10-09

Country music is the domain of the salt of the earth, the working man, but it is by and large a vehicle of mass acceptance. If you’re not on the radio, you might as well not exist for a large segment of your target audience. That’s not to say that there isn’t a market for underground country acts -- in fact they exist by the boatload -- but even there the majority of singers and guitar players toiling on the smaller stages have a mainstream endgame in sight; they’re just working their regional base and building up a grassroots audience on their way to (hopefully) taking over Nashville someday.

Red Dirt cowboy Jason Boland may have once harbored such lofty expectations, but if so he has tempered those dreams dramatically along the way, with new album Squelch not only spurning any question of airplay but almost exulting in its off-the-radar limitations. You can always tell when a country artist has turned his back on the Nashville machine when liberal amounts of profanity begin appearing in his music… granted, it’s become trendy for bro country singers to sneak TV-14 rated language into their Top 40 aspiring songs, but I think we can all agree that “Fight Fuck and Rodeo” is way beyond the pale for any artist with a hope in hell of getting sold in Walmart.

Not that the album as a whole is a tongue-in-cheek party record by any means. Some of Boland’s most plaintive songwriting is manifest on tunes about homesickness (“Do You Love Me Any Less”, which ponders the literal truth of the adage “absence makes the heart grow fonder”) or more ambiguous subjects such as “paying out the interest on borrowed time” (“Heartland Bypass”). Boland’s throaty voice makes his lyrics a bit difficult to decipher at times, but its rich timbre give the songs a lived in feel that no clean spoken recitation of the lyrics could possibly convey.

Boland recently spoke with NewsOK about his evolution as a songwriter, and it’s clear that age and maturity have served him far better than any formal study or apprenticeship could have: “You look back on some of the songs you wrote when you were 21, 22 years old, and some of it you're still proud of and some of it you think is ridiculous, and then you keep going through the trials and tribulations of life."

“Squelch” is the term for a knob on citizen band radio (CB) and other two-way radios to eliminate crosstalk and static on a channel that is not receiving a transmission. Clearly by naming his album such, Jason Boland is asserting that not only does country music have a lot of extraneous noise, but that he and his band the Stragglers are gonna be the ones to do something about it. Any messianic tendencies that mission statement may suggest are at once lulled into submission (if not a false sense of security) by the man’s languid croon and the low key, unfussy arrangements of the Stragglers. Not a flashy effort in spite of a few instigating, middle-finger-in-the-air songs, but like a crotchety old neighbor with a lot of stories to tell, Squelch is well worth investing a little time in.





The 60 Best Albums of 2007

From tech house to Radiohead and Americana to indie and everything in between, the 60 best albums of 2007 included many of the 2000s' best albums.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Solitude Stands in the Window: Thoreau's 'Walden'

Henry David Thoreau's Walden as a 19th century model for 21st century COVID-19 quarantine.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Will COVID-19 Kill Movie Theaters?

Streaming services and large TV screens have really hurt movie theaters and now the coronavirus pandemic has shuttered multiplexes and arthouses. The author of The Perils of Moviegoing in America, however, is optimistic.

Gary D. Rhodes, Ph.D

Fleabag's Hot Priest and Love as Longing

In season two of Fleabag, The Priest's inaccessibility turns him into a sort of god, powerful enough for Fleabag to suddenly find herself spending hours in church with no religious motivation.


Annabelle's Curse's 'Vast Oceans' Meditates on a Groundswell of Human Emotions (premiere)

Inspired by love and life, and of persistent present-day issues, indie folk band Annabelle's Curse expand their sound while keeping the emotive core of their work with Vast Oceans.


Americana's Sarah Peacock Finds Beauty Beneath Surface With "Mojave" (premiere + interview)

Born from personal pain, "Mojave" is evidence of Sarah Peacock's perseverance and resilience. "When we go through some of the dry seasons in our life, when we do the most growing, is often when we're in pain. It's a reminder of how alive you really are", she says.


Power Struggle in Beauty Pageants: On 'Mrs. America' and 'Miss Americana'

Television min-series Mrs. America and Taylor Swift documentary Miss Americana make vivid how beauty pageants are more multi-dimensional than many assume, offering a platform to some (attractive) women to pursue higher education, politics, and more.

Hilary Levey Friedman

Pere Ubu 'Comes Alive' on Their New, Live Album

David Thomas guides another version of Pere Ubu through a selection of material from their early years, dusting off the "hits" and throwing new light on some forgotten gems.


Woods Explore Darkness on 'Strange to Explain'

Folk rock's Woods create a superb new album, Strange to Explain, that mines the subconscious in search of answers to life's unsettling realities.


The 1975's 'Notes on a Conditional Form' Is Laudably Thought-Provoking and Thrilling

The 1975 follow A Brief Inquiry... with an even more intriguing, sprawling, and chameleonic song suite. Notes on a Conditional Form shows a level of unquenchable ambition, creativity, and outspoken curiosity that's rarely felt in popular music today.


Dustbowl Revival's "Queen Quarantine (A Home Recording)" Is a Cheeky Reproach of COVID-19 (premiere)

Inspired by John Prine, Dustbowl Revival's latest single, "Queen Quarantine (A Home Recording)", approaches the COVID-19 pandemic with wit and good humor.


The 2020 US Presidential Election Is Going to Be Wild but We've Seen Wild Before

Americans are approaching a historical US presidential election in unprecedented times. Or are they? Chris Barsanti's The Ballot Box: 10 Presidential Elections That Changed American History gives us a brief historical perspective.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.