by Julian Spivey
Jason Boland & the Stragglers put on one helluva country music show at The Rev Room in Little Rock, Ark. on Friday, Feb. 20.
The group, which is really at the pinnacle of the red dirt country music scene, is one of the most entertaining country acts around and know how to thoroughly capture a crowd with their honky-tonk energy.
Boland has one of the most quintessentially country voices in country music, in my opinion, and the Stragglers are an incredibly talented group of musicians that keep the show moving and grooving throughout the entire set, especially fiddle player Nick Worley. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more talented fiddle player in all of country music than that guy.
Boland & the Stragglers sped through an almost two-hour set of their biggest hits from their discography that harkens back to the late ‘90s pulling tunes from every one of their albums throughout the years. The packed Rev Room crowd was just as thrilled by the slower songs like “Lucky I Guess” and “Dark & Dirty Mile” off of the band’s most recent album The Dark & Dirty Mile, as they were harder rocking tunes from further back in the band’s timeline like “Truckstop Diaries” and “Telephone Romeo.”
One of the real highlights from the concert was hearing Boland perform “False Accuser’s Lament” from his terrific 2011 album Rancho Alto. The song of a man selling the life of an innocent man for plow money to try and save his farm is one of the great country music story songs of the last few decades and really harkens back to another era when such tunes were more prevalent.
More fan favorites from the terrific set were “Electric Bill,” from the group’s most recent album, and old favorites like “Pearl Snaps,” “When I’m Stoned” and the absolutely beautiful “Somewhere Down in Texas.”
The band has always been known as a great live act – and they prove why every single time you see them – and this is shown to great effect on their live album High in the Rockies. That album includes a fantastic cover of the Don Williams’ classic “Tulsa Time,” which the band often performs their rip-roaring performance of in concert.
The band really gets to their absolute rocking best toward the end of their set when they bring out the Tom Russell written cockfighting epic “Gallo Del Cielo” and the tornado barn-burner “Blowing Through the Hills.”
I had seen Boland & the Stragglers in concert once before last year in Morrilton, Ark. and must have focused most of my attention at that time on Boland himself. This time I truly noticed just how entertaining and mesmerizing of a fiddler player Worley is and let me tell you, ladies and gentleman, he is truly worth the price of the admission on his own. I’ve long thought that Kyle Nix of the Turnpike Troubadours, who I saw just the week before at The Rev Room, was the best fiddle player in the business, but Worley can truly give Nix a run for his money.
Boland & the Stragglers finished their set off with a terrific encore that included the ballad “Comal County Blue,” which might be the consensus favorite among the audience if you could poll the entire crowd, and then the finest performance of the entire set came as the ultimate finale when they finished with Bob Childers’ “Outlaw Band,” featuring Worley’s finest fiddle playing of the night.
If you’ve never seen Jason Boland & the Stragglers in concert you must do yourself a favor and find them at a local venue near you ASAP. You’ll have your mind blown.