I was all ready to give Rolling Stone Country credit for their 40 Best Country Albums of 2015…
…but Taylor Swift knockoff Kelsea Ballerini AND Bruno Mars wannabe Thomas Rhett ahead of George Strait, the Turnpike Troubadours, and Jason Boland? You have got to be fucking kidding me. As disappointing as Boland’s album was, at least it was, you know, country.
What’s that, you say? A Jason Boland album disappointing?
Comparatively speaking, yeah. In fact, and it pains me to say this, Squelch was, for us, the year’s biggest disappointment, hands down. Sabra described it as Jason Boland’s “old man yelling at the clouds” album, and that’s as good a description as any. He had been damned good up to that point, and even a subpar Boland album beats many other artists’ magnum opuses, but there’s not a song on there to my ears that measures up to “Devil Pays in Gold,” “Shot Full of Holes,” “Mary,” “Sons and Daughters of Dixie,” “False Accuser’s Lament,” or “Ludlow.”
I mean, I get the acerbic commentary, but I think there’s a right and wrong way to do that. For example, I mean, I loved “Sons and Daughters…,” “Farmer’s Luck,” “They Took It Away,” and “Christmas in Huntsville,” but “It’s Alright to be an Asshole” and “Fuck, Fight & Rodeo,” not so much. That talk-singing bit on the latter annoys the living shit out of me, and that may well be my least favorite Jason Boland song ever for just that reason. It’s a fun little country jam instrumentally, though. I don’t know. Maybe the whole thing will grow on me with repeated listens. We shall see.
It’s still better than the Chris Stapleton album though. No offense, but Traveller has to be the most overhyped country album at least since Garth Brooks’ Ropin’ the Wind. It would’ve been one thing if that album had lived up to the hype, but it didn’t. And that comparison is apt on a couple of different levels to me, because (as I have said elsewhere) the fawning over this guy in some circles is frighteningly reminiscent of the fawning over Garth Brooks in mainstream circles in the early 1990s, even if that’s as far as the similarities go.
I’ve heard some gripes about the Turnpike Troubadours album that I can’t say I get, namely that they re-recorded a couple of songs from Bossier City, their first album (“Easton and Main” and the title track), and covered a song from another band (the Old 97s’ “Doreen”) as opposed to giving us an album of all-new self-penned songs. But even if you take out those songs that leaves 9 all-new self-penned songs, and Diamonds and Gasoline had only 10 songs. And as great as all those new songs are, the new recording of “Easton and Main” is arguably the best song on the album.
Can’t really argue with their No. 1 pick, though, which was Jason Isbell’s Something More Than Free. I still find his voice kinda meh, especially compared to the other two Jasons we find ourselves listening to on a regular basis (Eady & Boland), but there’s some really top-notch songwriting on that album. “Children of Children,” “Speed Trap Town,” “Palmetto Rose,” “To A Band That I Loved,” all of those are great, great songs. It took a while for Southeastern to grow on me, but I took to Something More Than Free right away. I can hardly wait to see where he goes next.