"They say I'm a bourbon legend/ if you don't know/ I haunt the honky tonks like a worn out ghost/ a friend of a friend/ said that right or wrong/ I'll be a bourbon legend long after I'm gone." The Bourbon Legend - Boland-Kennedy-Anderson

When hell-raising Oklahoma born honky tonk hero Jason Boland sings long and loud about booze he pops a top on his not so distant past.

The latter day Texan did a stint in rehab after touring to support his first four albums that launched him in the vanguard of famed Red Dirt movement with Cross Canadian Ragweed, Cooder Graw and Great Divide.

Boland announced on his web page that he checked into a Sierra Tucson rehab clinic in October of 2005.

"Sometimes you need to mend the fences of your mind," said Boland whose 2006 disc The Bourbon Legend also features Can't Tell If I Drink.

Boland's turbo tonking music embraces booze, dope, ruptured romance, cheating and living on the edge - all the genre's staples tempered by a road weary wrap of nostalgia and a longing for pleasures of the past, present and future.

Pete Anderson - guitarist and studio legend behind early success of Dwight Yoakam, Sara Evans, Lucinda Williams and Joy Lynn White - is now Boland's producer.

So there's plenty of pedal and lap steel, mandolin, dobro and fiddle adorning the hard driving caboose of drums, guitars and keyboards.

Although the singer, who plays acoustic guitar on this disc has been sober for almost two years, he pillages plentiful raw material.

"I have a lot of experience to draw from," Boland, now 33, joked in a recent interview with Country Standard Time.

"I never wrote a lot of songs that said, 'Hey, let's go get messed up.' I talked about drinking because that's what I was doing."

Boland was born in Harrah and worked bars in college town Stillwater - also launch pad of semi-retired superstar Garth Brooks - while he was studying at Oklahoma State University.
He moved in 2003 to New Braunfels - south of Austin - where he lives when not on the lost highway.


"Can't tell if I drink because she bitches/ or she bitches because I drink" - Can't Tell If I Drink - Jason Boland-Dawson

Boland admitted returning to music a sober man was a scary prospect.

"I was afraid I wasn't going to like it," Boland told The Houston Chronicle.

"Our strengths are always our weaknesses. Music was one of the things that was a catalyst for what was killing me, and it was a catalyst to bring me back, too. I found out it was something I still really do care about. When I'm playing now, people are like, 'You smile a lot more.' Really, it was just because I was so happy that I knew that I loved to play. I was relieved."

Also relieved was The Stragglers - Roger Ray (pedal steel, lead/rhythm guitar), Brad Rice (drums/ vocals), Grant Tracy (bass), and Noah Jeffries (banjo, mandolin, and guitar).

"It was a huge sigh of relief. I was a total liability," Boland confessed.

"They don't have to worry anymore if I'm gonna get through a show. That's gotta be helpless feeling watching somebody self-destruct, and all you can do is just sit over there and play guitar."

Boland burst onto the live scene in Stillwater in 1998 and cut debut disc Pearl Snaps in 1999 with If I Ever Get Back To Oklahoma and the title track scoring airplay.

Truckstop Diaries followed in 2001 featuring the hit Travellin Jones and Shot Full Of Holes.

Although he was seriously injured in an accident shortly before the second album was released, he boomeranged after musician friends played a benefit to help him pay his medical bills.

Next came Live And Loud at Billy Bob's in Fort Worth in 2002 with pre-release radio favourite Mexico or Crazy and When I'm Stoned that was reprised on his fourth album Somewhere In The Middle, produced by Lloyd Maines, in 2004.

Boland and The Stragglers prime the lucrative Americana airplay pump with frequent touring to fan album sales beyond 100,000.

Recent hits from fifth album The Bourbon Legend on Texas label Sustain included No One Left to Blame and Up and Gone.

They spent two weeks on top of the Texas Music Chart - with reports from about 80 radio stations.


"Smoke and a guitar for my friends/ I had to go and try again/ two good hands and a restless soul/ I'm down to seeds and stems to roll" - No One Left To Blame - Jason Boland-Pete Anderson.

Boland's music evokes the outlaw spirit of Hank Williams Jr, Waylon & Willie, Billy Joe Shaver, Ray Wylie Hubbard, David Allan Coe and other rebels.

The singer, proud to ride high in the saddle of his many heroes, exorcises his demons in songs such as No One Left To Blame, the sin-laden lament of Baby That's Just Me and lachrymose lava of the long departed damsel on new album finale track Everyday Life.

"I get that a lot," Boland confessed of the Jennings comparison.

"And rightfully so. I loved what Waylon Jennings did. But I really like a heavy backbeat, and I'm a baritone, and when you get that kind of bounce in the music, the words come out in that flowing, baritone timbre. But it's not even a comparison, it's just a compliment."

And, like Jennings, the singer lives life on the edge - even as a sober saddle-tramp.

He details a bar-room brawl in Louisiana in his web page diary and, like Florida band Lost Trailers, has been victim of highway bandits.

"They stole our trailer in Fort Worth," Boland confessed.

"We were just coming off the road, and we were getting some people to the airport. We dropped the trailer at a strip mall there. And it got yanked that evening. They got away with just about everything, except some of our instruments."

These thieves even swiped toys intended for a Toys For Tots campaign.

"They took the whole trailer, so I don't think it was a sting to get our toys," he added.
Boland rolls with the punches with daily dramas on the road.

"Most people are nice to musicians really, deep down," Boland says.

"When a crowd seems really rough on you, it's usually just a couple of people. Yeah, I've played some rough crowds where I felt, 'I don't belong here.' But it doesn't matter. It's all rock & roll. It's all three chords. You get through it."

Boland energises his songs by touring.

"We pretty much live on the road," he says.

"We're a regional act. But sometimes we'll route long and stay out for couple of weeks. I don't ever get tired of being on the road. You get to where, 'Okay, I'm ready to go home for a little bit.' We get enough time at home. You don't ever get sick of being at home. You love it when you're at home; you love it when you're on the road. If you're that type of person, you've gotta have some ramblin' in you."


"Well there goes another stand of trees/ another fishing tank/ burn down the family farm/ bought up by the bank" - Last Country Song - Jason Boland-Pete Anderson.

Boland sets the mood for new disc with entrée Last Country Song - a social comment on the pop pirates in country music.

The song also laments the city invasions of a once blissful country lifestyle and faux progress tearing towns and farms apart.

"When you listen to a writer like Billy Joe Shaver, you never doubt his integrity on where he's coming with his songs," Boland says.

"You can hear every drop of whiskey that's ever hit those vocal cords. Art is supposed to represent its geography and times and the politics it's livin' in. The country music I'm hearing on the radio today, the rural meaning of country must be dying. Because its music, its anthems, its soundtracks are dying. I don't hear 'em anymore. It's worse than pop music. It's trying to be pop music, and it's not."

Boland uses a Wiggles analogy in observations on the sincerity of artists.

"Do The Wiggles really like those songs?" Boland queries?

"Or are they just singing to a bunch of ritalin-ed up kids?"

Boland, like older peers Pat Green and Cory Morrow, works the college circuit as well as honky tonks.

"Why would a 20-year-old college student buy a country record?" Boland quips.

"He's getting a college education. It's staggering when you try and think about selling to that person. That's when I discovered Steve Earle, and that's when I got into Guy Clark."

Boland combines his swagger with riveting rhythms.

"I don't see why the song can't have a hook either," Boland says.

"I think every song should have John Fogerty's guitar lick, Townes Van Zandt meter and use of vocabulary and some Alabama - the band - chorus. When you listen to a song like The Bourbon Legend, there are is a lot of innuendo and double meanings in there. But it's still a shit-kicking song."

Boland draws on history for his love of roots country music.

"When a band like Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys came to town, that was it," Jason recalled.

"That was the happening. If you weren't at it, everybody else was talking about it. The Baptists weren't at the dance, but they sure were talking about it."


"A million things that can drive a man insane/ you don't have to live in fear but keep an open eye/ for those rattlesnakes, painted ladies and cocaine." - Rattlesnakes - Bob Childers-Jason Boland.

Boland, about to start on a new disc in California, is enthusiastic about writing with his producer Anderson.

"The best part of 2006, period, was working with Pete Anderson," Boland recalled. "Other than the Dwight, I had only just heard Moot Davis, the guy he is working with now a lot.

But, you know, the body of work he did with Dwight, I don't know why you would need to hear anything else. That was as good as country music has ever been done. Period."
Although Anderson is listed as a co-writer his role appears to be polishing songs from the pen of Boland.

"I had those songs when they came," Boland explained.

"When somebody takes your song and helps it that much, to the point where they make it a different song in some way, they deserve co-writes on that."

But Boland admits that he and Anderson wrote No One Left To Blame in a swift session.

"That was one of those, 'Hey, here's an idea for this. That's a little too this, let's go that way.' Fifteen minutes, later we had the major workings of the song," Boland recalled.

Boland also wrote Rattlesnakes - a tawdry tale replete with rattlers, painted ladies and cocaine - with Bob Childers.

"He had had a lot of it written," Boland added.

"Bob's one of those very intelligent men that knows how the well works. And if he has a song that he hears you singing, he'll invite you over for you to help finish it up. He's a smart a guy. That song was mainly Bob Childers."

Boland is coy about his personal experiences with the subject matter.

"I'm trying to think if I've ever had a bad experience with a rattlesnake," Boland joked.

"Yeah, I think I would."


"Jesus and Ruger/ they're both straight shooters/ Islam and napalm mean something to someone/ my chakras are blocked but I'm learning but I'm learning Tai Chi.' -Jesus And Ruger - Jason Boland.

Boland emulates mentor Billy Joe Shaver in lethal religious imagery for songs such as Jesus And Ruger and Time In Hell but has many other influences.

"The day I wrote The Back Side of Blues was the first day I bought a Billy Joe Shaver album." Boland said.

"Shaver is just amazing. I love Johnny Cash, but it's not my style. I love Merle Haggard, but I can't sing like that. You just kinda get your own style and people that touch you."

Shaver joined Boland for a duet on his classic Thunderbird Wine on previous album Somewhere In The Middle on which Boland wrote 8 of the 13 songs.

Now, on the verge of his sixth album, Boland vividly recalls the birth of his songwriting in 1992 - well before he started playing publicly in 1995.

His first gig was in a place called Key Midwest in Stillwater, where a friend set him up on a Saturday night.

"You're still nervous in some aspects always" Boland said.

"There's good nervous and bad nervous." Good nervous would be more like getting ready and being pumped up with a 'let's do this' attitude with the intent and mind set to jam out and pull off a great performance."

He also recalls elevating his writing from rock to country.

"It was my first country song," Boland recalled.

"I wrote it by myself. I'd written a couple of rock songs earlier, and they were kind of what was going on in '93, Alice In Chains-ish, Pearl Jam-ish, whatever. I wrote this country song. I played it for a friend, and he said, "It's really good." He said, "My favourite song is The Dance by Garth Brooks. And if that's a 10, I'm giving your song a 7 or 8. I thought, 'Really?'"

But that was then and this is now.


"Well I guess that they don't want me/ hanging around no more/ I'm busted in the badlands/ I wish I knew what for." - Time In Hell - Jason Boland-Pete Anderson

Boland performs with Texan troubadour Sunny Sweeney, another co-writer, at Cain's Ballroom in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in November.

"There's business achievements and there's soul-driving achievements - the things you do that are why you do it," Boland reflects on his career growth.

"Hitting No. 1 was one of the really cool business ones. I'm not a competitive person by nature, but once you get put onto a chart, it's competitiveness by default.

It's a good gauge. This is the record we have always wanted to make. It is the right record at the right time and we really just let it flow."

The Bourbon Legend was released on Halloween, exactly eight years after the band's first gig, at the Wormy Dog in Stillwater opening for Pat Green and Cross Canadian Ragweed.

Boland also recorded The Gospel According to John on the second Kinky Friedman tribute disc Why The Hell Not - The Songs Of Kinky Friedman (Sustain) during The Kinkster's Gubernatorial campaign back in 2006.

His song Travellin Jones is also featured on 2001 Compadre compilations Texas Road Trip (Music World) and Drinkin Song is on the label's 2005 compilation Texas Brew 11.

But now, with new disc in the wings and exposure in Europe and now in Australia on Nu Country TV, Boland is blazing a fertile trail beyond the badlands.

"I've done right by my family name/ day and night I toil/ I pray that I may see the day/ where the blood won't meet the soil."

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