Jason Boland & the Stragglers may struggle, but they always make it through

Jason Boland & the Stragglers with Turnpike Troubadors
Wormy Dog Saloon
311 E. Sheridan

Life's never necessarily come easily for Jason Boland, but he's learned how to make the best of pain and loss. It's one of the reasons for his success. As he sings on "Proud Souls," "Life's a lot of trade-offs in the end."

Raised in Harrah, Boland was thrown in front of a piano at a young age, and music stuck with him. In college in Stillwater, he fell in with fellow musicians Stoney LaRue and Cody Canada, forever changing his life's trajectory.

"They were more in the spirit behind the singing and songwriting, living free and being who you are," Boland said. "So once I met a bunch of that crew, and started playing around the bars there, I met all these other guys that wanted to do the same thing. It was just a natural evolution."

The journey of his band, The Stragglers, began a dozen years ago. During that time, they've seen more highway than a long-haul trucker, logging around 200 dates a year. They even called their second album "Truckstop Diaries." Through it all, Boland has delivered an old-fashioned country attitude with a sound that goes back to the liquored-up honky-tonk of his outlaw forefathers.

That including drinking too much, but he now reports that, free of alcohol's self-destructive influence, he enjoys his life and music much more. But Boland's trials weren't about to end. In 2007, he got divorced, and that pain informed 2008's "Comal County Blue," making it one of his darker albums. Then, on the verge of its release, he ruptured a vocal chord, almost losing his ability to sing.

"By the time I knew how serious it was, I was really already in the best possible hands I could be at Vanderbilt University," he said. "It was ironic when they said, 'Your surgery will be August 26th' " that's the day the record comes out."

To top things off, it was the first of The Stragglers' discs to be self-released. Despite being unable to support it with a tour until three months later, they came out of it smelling like a rose. "Blue" became their best-selling release to that point, climbing as high as No. 30 in Billboard's country chart and breaking the Top 200 for the first time.

After releasing a live disc, "High in the Rockies" in April, they're hoping to record a new studio album soon for an early summer release. Meanwhile, Boland's sticking to what he knows: pain, frustration and getting through the darkness.

"Even if you go back and find an old, upbeat, four-on-the-floor drinking song, it's still 'grit my teeth, ram my fist.' There's a lot of negative imagery going on there," he said. "But look around at what's going on in the world today. I see what country music's trying to do " have everybody think about football, homecoming and nostalgia " but, man, that'll turn ya into a pillar of salt." "Chris Parker

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