We've come to expect certain things when you listen to a new Jason Boland and the Stragglers CD over the past 15-plus years. Expect new music to stay true to the dancehall country music that made them Texas/Red Dirt music icons. Expect great lyrics, and fantastic musical arrangements that are incredibly easy to listen to. And, of course, you can expect to enjoy one of the best vocalists in country music. With the release of their seventh studio album, 'Dark & Dirty Mile', it's good to know that some things never change.

With the new CD, one thing has changed though. The great Lloyd Maines produced 2011's 'Rancho Alto' CD for Jason Boland and the Stragglers. When I found out they decided to have the new album co-produced by Boland and Shooter Jennings, I wondered if the Stragglers were headed in a more rock-sounding direction. Not so much. In fact, aside from one song, this record is as country as as any previous Boland album.

The title track opens up 'Dark & Dirty Mile'. It's already shot up the Texas Music Charts, as we've come to expect from any Jason Boland single. This is classic Boland, with his smooth, easy going music accompanied by deep, dark lyrics.

'Electric Bill' brings a clever new angle on the old "We're broke, but we've got each other" theme that's prevalent in country music.This one is destined to be a fan favorite at live shows for years to come.

The finest thing about you is how you try to understand
What it takes to be half rake and half good hearted man
When the phone is always ringing with bankers on the line
Don't forget I'm yours and how you're mine

 

If they take away everything
They won't take us apart
We'll roll some kill in the electric bill
Then smoke it in the dark

The tempo slows for 'Lucky I Guess', a great love song suitable for any happy couple's first dance as husband and wife.

'They Took It Away' gives a somewhat unsettling history lesson about the evolution of the southwestern U.S. starting with the Battle of the Alamo. 'Ludlow' follows that, a song about the Ludlow Massacre, an attack by the Colorado National Guard on striking coal miners and their families at Ludlow, Colorado in 1914.

I love 'Blue Diamond'. While it's nearly impossible to pick a favorite song from 'Dark & Dirty Mile', this one might be mine. It's a simple song, but at the same time has a lot of intricate instrument work going on, giving 'Blue Diamond' several of those 'special moments' I look forward to in a great song.

'Green Screen' is the most rocking song, so it should come as no surprise that Shooter Jennings lends his guitar talents to this one. The tempo is the most upbeat on the record, and this song adds another dimension and texture to an album that is already pretty complete.

As time goes on, it will be interesting to see what songs off 'Dark & Dirty Mile' are released to radio. I say this, because they pretty much all sound like hits to me.

Jason Boland and the Stragglers 'Dark & Dirty Mile' - Track Listing

  1. “Dark and Dirty Mile” (Boland/LaRue) - 4:09
  2. “Electric Bill” (Boland) - 3:15
  3. “Lucky I Guess” (Boland) - 5:07
  4. “The Only One” (Boland) - 3:58
  5. “They Took It Away” (Crouch) - 3:31
  6. “Ludlow” (Boland) - 4:07
  7. “Nine Times Out of Ten” (Boland) - 3:43
  8. “Blue Diamond” (Childers/Piccolo) - 3:42
  9. “Green Screen” (Boland) - 3:19
  10. “Spend All Your Time” (Boland) - 4:59
  11. “See You When I See You” (Boland) - 5:23