Road warriors for nearly two decades, Jason Boland & the Stragglers have built their career on the highway. Their songs spin stories of heartaches, hangovers and the heavy toll that progress takes on a land of farmers and old-timers, with Boland — the group’s captain — setting the landscape and lifestyle of his Red Dirt homeland to a soundtrack of outlaw twang and raw, ragged honky-tonk.
With “Holy Relic Sale,” though, the singer finds his muse closer to home. A sweeping slow dance from the band’s eighth album, Squelch, due October 9th, the song serves as a tribute to Boland’s wife, whose lucky pair of blue socks sparked the track’s creation. (Listen to “Holy Relic Sale” below.)
“These things — relics, good luck charms and such — all either get lost or break or fade in some capacity,” Boland tells Rolling Stone Country. “What inspired the song was this one day, [when] my wife and I were rushing like crazy, trying to get ready because we had important things happening on this particular day. She has these lucky blue socks she was going to wear, to make sure all went well. You know, a little extra luck, if you will. . .Well, we had this amazing day and everything went so well. We were just in the best spirits. When we got home and changed, she realized that, in our haste, she put on the wrong socks. We laughed because everything worked out anyway. It all happened naturally.”
Like the rest of Squelch, “Holy Relic Sale” was recorded straight to analog tape. Mandolin, pedal steel and Rhodes piano all ebb and flow in the background, while Boland sings the ballad like some old-school dancehall crooner, showing off the lower end of his range. While the lyrics start and stop with references to his wife’s blue socks, Boland says there’s a deeper message to be found here.
“The relics and icons are really only there to remind us that the positive attitude and magic has to come from within,” he explains. “It’s all right there inside us, and we need to remember that.”