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{Review} Jason Boland & the Stragglers: High in the Rockies

reprinted from MusicFest Magazine.

Jason Boland and the Stragglers put on one of the most venerable and tremendous live shows anywhere in the United States in any genre. Their Live and Lit at Billy Bob’s album back in 2003 was a watershed live album for this scene of music.
The Stragglers blistered through an extended set at one of the most hallowed venues around and their ability to overcome some of the slickness that comes from Billy Bob’s productions launched that record into the panthenon of great Red Dirt live albums.

Seven years later, they have returned with another triumphant effort entitled High In the Rockies: A Live Album. On the backside of Boland’s most personal songwriting and his recovery from vocal cord issues, this record finds The Stragglers doing what they do best on four consecutive nights across Colorado and Wyoming.

The track listing is comprised of material on albums released after the Billy Bob’s album and a couple new songs/covers. Boland’s voice slides through the speakers and hops into the shotgun position in your truck from the moment of his first note on album opener “Hank”. He has never sounded finer and there are few bands more finely tuned than the Stragglers.

Roger Ray’s guitar and dobro work complements every player while shining in all the right spots. Noah Jeffries doesn’t just standout on the fiddle, he is an underrated mandolin player who gets to show his skills on songs like “No Reason Being Late”.

Like no other group of players I know, this entire group embodies the musical sensibilities of folks like Merle Haggard (whose “Rainbow Stew” is given excellent treatment here) and Waylon Jennings (whose guitar tone influence can be felt all over the album) better than all others.

This collection of the best takes from four nights showcases a band that knows how to honky-tonk when it is time to do that, knows how to let make you slow dance when it is time for that, and knows how to make you stop and think when it is time for that.

High In the Rockies is a 19-song showcase for a band at its absolute peak. By the time “Outlaw Band” fades out and the crowd is screaming for more, the Stragglers have achieved that old showbiz adage…leave them wanting more. This is a must have album for a must see band.

-Brad

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