Red Dirt country singer Jason Boland is thankful for all the good things that have come his way during his 20-year career – especially his wife Mandy, the inspiration behind his atypical honky-tonk love song "I Don't Deserve You." Rather than take the tried-and-true approach to a love song, Boland singles out not the things he's blessed with, but what he doesn’t have.
"You get a lot of things you don't deserve in life, and yeah it sucks, but you get a lot of things in life that you deserve that are really good, too," Boland says.
"I Don't Deserve You" is the first song from Hard Times Are Relative, Boland's ninth album with his longtime Oklahoma band the Stragglers, out May 18th on Thirty Tigers. The track and many of the album's lyrics focus on the term "relative" when talking about good and hard times.
"If you're having hard times, they are relative to somebody else's hard times and whatever else is going on in the world," he says.
Texas singer-songwriter Sunny Sweeney joins Boland on the track to add vocals, furthering the depth of the song's thought-provoking lyrics.
"I guess you wouldn't call it a full-on 'I take a verse' duet, but we made sure to keep her predominantly in the mix," Boland says of Sweeney's contribution. "We had just played some shows with Sunny and thought she would sound great on this."
The album is the band's first since 2015's Squelch. They recorded it with Dave Percefull and Adam Odor at Yellow Dog Studios in Wimberley, Texas. "It's a gorgeous place to record a record," Boland says, noting the studio's 1000 feet of access to the Blanco River. "We've been working with those guys on and off for years. So that sets up a comfortable feel and confidence knowing you're going to get captured what you want captured."
As was the case for the last three albums (and their debut), the band recorded to tape without the use of computer programs like ProTools, and Boland hopes fans appreciate the thought and effort that went into writing the project. It's an album with substance in the lyrics, but also one with fun and catchy melodies worth hearing with the volume up, a trademark of Boland's writing.
"At most, cook food during it," he suggests. "Otherwise sit there and listen to it a couple times. And see what you think. We try to put more in there than a bunch of ear fodder. We challenge ourselves in the studio. We still challenge ourselves day to day in our lives."
It's a process that is seemingly constant as the band is on the road most of the year, with few if any breaks, something that Boland is conscious of as the group prepares to celebrate its 20th year together. They'll note the milestone during a performance at the 10th Annual Leftover Turkey party, the Friday after Thanksgiving, at Cain's Ballroom in Tulsa.
"Anytime you can have a group of people that travel as much as we do, do what we do in the spirit of art being reflective of life, you can look back and get a snapshot of our little corner of touring and music and what was going on with us," he says. "We have pop songs and lighthearted country songs and goofy stuff. But we also try to speak a little more to the fiber of what the world was going through and the way we saw it at the time."