For the past 20 years, Jason Boland & the Stragglers have dazzled audiences all over as one of the leading ambassadors of the Oklahoma and Texas music movement. Millions of fans cheering him on, over 500,000 records sold independently and 10 albums later, Boland is a career musician whose legacy continues to grow. From his early days touring in cramped vans and playing in front of tiny bar crowds to the packed venues he performs in today, Boland’s uncompromising approach has grown his profile dramatically, especially in the past handful of years. Add to that the legions of musicians who are influenced by Boland, and his impact on the scene is undeniable.
But just like so many other musicians, Boland was initially paralyzed by the pandemic. At the onset of the March 2020 lockdown, Boland was stuck at home for the longest period of his storied career without performing live.
Earlier this year, Boland released a cover of both Steve Winwood’s “Back In The High Life Again'' and Bob Dylan’s “The Times They-Are-A-Changin’” with the proceeds going to charity. Radio programmers around the country began spinning Back in the High Life Again, and the song spent 11 weeks in the Top 40 Americana Singles Chart.
Packed into three distinctive interlocking parts, The Light Saw Me is layered with vivid imagery that touches on old legends, conspiracies and other accounts that run contrary to reality. Referencing aliens can oftentimes be campy and corny, but Boland uses them in a fascinating fashion. On the mesmerizing album opener “Terrifying Nature,” a brooding rambler featuring red hot fiddles that encapsulates the spirit of The Light Saw Me, Boland tackles how people come to grips with existential fear of how they’re connected to the feeling of love. It also sets up everything that’s to come.
Boland has long been an admirer of the late, great singer-songwriter Bob Childers, who served as a mentor to him. It’s fitting that on an album with great depth, that Boland would include Childers’ signature “Restless Spirits,” to serve as a de facto climax of the album. Tying the album together thematically, Boland uses “Restless Spirits” as a vehicle to showcase that we should have hope that love is a bond that is real, eternal, and still alive in the world and beyond.
While the music remains true to the roots of Boland and the Stragglers’ Red Dirt background, it’s as tight as anything he’s ever done. On top of the message and intricate instrumentation, the bold storyline will please longtime fans and undoubtedly serve as a gateway album to the rest of his massive discography.
For most of his career, the only thing you could expect from Boland is to do the unexpected. On what’s now his 10th studio album, he not only does that, but he did it in his own organic and authentic way. He’s making the music he wants while continuing to please the people who want to hear where his artistic journey takes him next. With a catalog like his, that’s no easy feat.
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