Standing out on a cold evening, you’ll lean into anything that feels like warmth. With today’s release of the The Wind, on Louisville’s Eastwood Records, Eric Bolander succeeds in drawing us all in a little “closer to the flame.” Here it is warmer, and there is a sent of hope. Here, in the flicker of Bolander’s world, even the harshest of realities is made beautiful, and laid to rest.
While easy to listen to, this most recent creation of Bolander’s is hardly easy-listening. With lyrics that open from the chest to confront topics that are to many Southerners ‘family matters,’ this compilation of songs is raw, and deeply personal—working to make an account of life, death, and the gorgeous interweaving that goes on in between. While still being quite private, and deeply Southern, Bolander’s album, The Wind tells of one man’s specific familial history in a way that many can relate to. He is soulful in his approach, reciting honest confessions with a warmth that invites the listener to lean in for comfort and reassurance. It might not be easy—Bolander seems to confide—but it’s worth it.
Produced by Duane Lundy out of Shangri-la Studios in Lexington, Kentucky, The Wind opens with a driving rhythm that evokes a long ride down a night road. Bolander’s own guitar streams in like a high beam working to outshine the surrounding darkness. There is a haunting disquiet in the dancing cadence of this first track, “Closer to That Flame”, which works to set the stage for the heavier tones that follow. The tracking is suggestive and impulsive, leading one down a cold, and even darker highway.
There is a tight juxtaposition of death and new life framed in this work of Bolander’s. “Oh Lord,” the third track on The Wind grieves heavily with the steady pull, and draw of a weeping cello performed by Seth Murphy. The following track, which also doubles as the final track—nuanced with keys (John Ferguson)—”Fly” breaths an etheric purity to the album, brightening the pain of loss with the joy of birth. There is a booming softness to this song, which builds an aurora of sound. He performs his joy from the heart, and offers his listeners a father’s tear-soaked prayer to his newly born child. The play of these two songs together is a testament to Bolander’s sensitivity to the human condition.
The seventh track, “Maybe I”, cuts at the heart of what this compilation of songs contributes. A perfect Country ballad, layered with cello, pedal steel (J. Tom Hnatow), and dirging percussion (Ben Caldwell), “Maybe I” takes an honest, and ruthless look at choices made, and the grief those choices have caused. This track reflects his own part in creating the realities around him. “Maybe I never should have lied / And just told the truth / About what I tried to hide.”
One can only assume that these ten songs are only but a well-chosen set of ruminations that Bolander has worked to put to song concerning these full-hearted topics. He’s honed into the emotion of his experiences, and filtered out the humanity inherent within his struggle. His truths are the same backend truths that we all unpack daily, but he does it with a sound that transcends his own physicality to lift himself and his listeners into a new plane of acceptance, and healing.
Eric Bolander’s LP The Wind released March 29. You can get your own copy of the album, and read more about Bolander’s past and future projects by following this link to his website.