Personnel: Jason Boland (vocals, acoustic guitar); Cody Angel (resonator guitar); Nick Worley (mandolin, fiddle); Riley Osbourne (piano, organ); Grant Tracy (bass guitar); Brad Rice (drums, percussion).
Audio Mixer: Gabriel Gonzalez.
Recording information: The ORB, Austin, TX.
"Squelch" is a term used by truck drivers to eliminate static from their CB radios. It proves a brilliant title for Jason Boland & the Stragglers uncompromising eighth studio album. Boland and his band are throwing down hardcore honky tonk country music, with no concessions made to contemporary Nashville. Cody Angel's pedal steel and Nick Worley's fiddle are prominent in the mix, with Boland's voice and acoustic guitar behind him. The opener "Break 19" is an uptempo stroll, though its narrative point of view comes from a broken man who is older, sadder, and wiser. The cut-time "First to Know" is deceptive: It's a tearjerker offered via a cut-time barroom stomp. Boland sings "I Guess It's Alright to Be an Asshole" (an indictment of aggressive macho drunken behavior) like an anthem. "Lose Early" is a swaggering, nocturnal blues that takes on narrow minds, fear, and civic complicity without critical faculty: "...Gettin' by is not the best that we can do/Lose early, win late.." -- and it has a screaming guitar break. "Christmas in Huntsville" (written by Dana Hazzard), is a genuinely moving, bitterly ironic, first-person narrative about being on death row. "Bienville" is a gorgeous honky tonk waltz. The pedal steel is as emotionally searing as Boland's lyrics are devastating. "Fat and Merry" utilizes country gospel (with a pumping upright piano) to serve an entirely different end. The title of closer "Fuck, Fight and Rodeo" may seem like a bro-country novelty, but is instead a militant rollicking answer to American jingoism. The music on Squelch is indeed hardcore, down-home, good-time country, and may seem fit for a party soundtrack. But hearing the album this way would make you the butt of a joke. The grain in Boland's voice demands a deeper level of engagement ad to be taken on its own terms. Angry as hell, Squelch is an exceptionally well-executed album by one of the last true Red Dirt artists. ~ Thom Jurek