Jason Boland & the Stragglers - Comal County Blue 

Jason Boland, leader of Stillwater-born country outfit The Stragglers, has penned a collection of songs soaked in the deepest red to date.

"Comal County Blue," the group's sixth album, was released last week and is already finding its way among the top slots of the Texas Music Chart, garnering critical and fan praise for its intimate songwriting.

Songs like "Bottle by My Bed" are almost uncomfortably personal, like the view through a camera zoomed in too close. "Bottle" is either an early-morning headache or late-night stagger, filled with sobbing fiddles and resentful guitar cries. Out of his miserable haze, the defeated Harrah native resigns himself to a "home" where he's "no longer empty, like the bottle" by his bed.

"God Is Mad at Me" is similarly harrowing and dark, as Boland aches about the state of his soul, his ethereal legacy and his place in the world.

But don't worry, as "The Party's Not Over"' a brisk, upbeat track that begs for barn-floor line dances. The slower "May Not Be Love" and the perky "Alright" are relaxed and seem effortlessly delivered, both by Boland's smooth vocals and The Stragglers' expert picking, plucking, sticking and strumming.

A vocal cord injury and recent surgery will keep Boland away from the mic for a few months' a rest that will hopefully render the singer/songwriter ready to perform "Comal County Blue" for audiences eager for some of the red dirt pioneer's best songs in years.

"?Joe Wertz

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