Review: Eric Bolander Rides 'The Wind' on Expanded Re-Issue
Country and folk music has long been the creative outlet to tell stories of the struggles of rural America. Folk poets like Hank Williams and Woody Guthrie's stories of crop failure, drought, hopeless emptiness, and self-medication through drink gave rural people a voice and shed light on an unfamiliar reality for urban dwellers. As country has increasingly become a pop-oriented nostalgia factory, Americana has picked up the mantle of the rural poet, and the tales they tell, while taking different names like “opioid addiction” and “preventable disease”, still ring true in rural America. That's the ground Eric Bolander explores on the expanded and re-issued edition of his 2017 album The Wind.
Bolander knows a thing or two about both the rural and urban South. Bolander grew up in the small Eastern Kentucky town of Garrison and currently splits his time as an art teacher and touring musician in Lexington, making a name for himself in the college town both with rock bands Modern Day Relic and Alcatraz Shakedown and as an Americana artist with his solo music. This duality is present throughout The Wind, with both its no holds barred look at the dark underbelly of rural Kentucky and a celebration of the resilient people who survive in that world.
The album's best song is “Oh Lord.” Part call to Heaven, part cynical prayer to a god who may not be listening, it tells of the effects of a new pain clinic on his hometown, a place where all you need is “$100 bill and forget your pain.” There's a personal aspect to the song, as Bolander tells of a drug addicted cousin who passed out in his car and was burned alive in the ensuing wreck.” Bolander's voice, leathery and pleading, blends well with the guitar's minor chords and the haunting cello throughout.
The album's title track is a tribute to Bolander's grandmother, who has survived generations of rural life and continued to persevere throughout. At the song's beginning, Bolander wonders “why don't the wind blow me away? Why don't the wind blow me down?” Later, he steels his resolve with “I don't know if I'm rested, but I'm here to stay.”
The album's most surprising song is a cover, of Prince's “Purple Rain.” Americana artists doing acoustic covers of pop songs is nothing new, but few have tried to tackle Prince. His shadow is just too large. Bolander wisely discards everything but the song's lyrics and rebuilds the instrumentals from scratch, turning it into a plaintive acoustic guitar ballad with a cello solo to anchor. It's just familiar enough to know it's a cover, but original enough not to draw too many comparisons.
Bolander chose a fellow Lexingtonian as producer, Duane Lundy, who has worked with everyone from Ringo Starr to Jim James to Sturgill Simpson. In his hands, Bolander's songs get plenty of room to breathe, with each instrument getting space to shine. The Wind is a timely entry in a crowded Americana field. While Bolander fans have already heard most of these songs from the album's first release, the new material is worth a listen and the album as a whole serves as a good introduction to new fans.
Eric Bolander will be touring in support of The Wind, including an album release show in Lexington.
Mar. 29- The Burl- Lexington, KY- Album Release Show
Mar. 30- Jarfly Brewing- Somerset, KY
Apr. 1- Blue Plate Special- Knoxville, TN
Apr. 3- Tidball's- Bowling Green, KY
Apr. 5- Off Broadway Taproom- Madison, IN
Apr. 6- Backroom Lounge- Riverton, IL
Apr. 13- Tootle's- Circleville, OH
Apr. 20- Jason Isbell Pre-Party- Zbar- Louisville, KY