Eric Bolander: The Wind
The Commonwealth of Kentucky may still be best known for basketball, bluegrass, and bourbon, but a new wave of contemporary country music is rising north of Nashville. In recent years the unfolding brilliance of Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson, and Tyler Childers has reminded us that country music has rich history and deep roots in eastern Kentucky. This revelation has also called attention upon scores of aspiring musicians from the area likewise following their dreams. One such artist is singer/songwriter Eric Bolander, a public school art teacher by day, and Appalachian troubadour by night.
Eric calls the blossoming music scene of Lexington, Kentucky his home now, but he’s no city slicker. A hundred miles or so to the northeast, his hometown of Garrison (population @ 900) in Lewis County sits on the Ohio River, nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Here he grew up the son of a carpenter, listening to bluegrass music with his family. After exploring his artistic nature with rock music in multiple previous endeavors, Bolander has returned to a decidedly folk and roots format with an introspective, reflective, and brooding style. This style and his stage presence have drawn favorable comparisons to John Moreland, while he counts singers Don Williams and Earl Thomas Conley among his influences. And you can clearly hear that same passion and sincerity in his songs.
March 2019 saw Bolander re-release his 2017 album, The Wind, with two additional songs, alternate arrangements, and some calculated remixing at Lexington’s Shangri-La Studio under the guidance and tutelage of producer Duane Lundy. Lundy is known for his previous production work with Simpson, and a host of impressive rising artists such as Vandaveer, Ian Noe, and The National Reserve. Only one of many musical relationships Eric has cultivated on his musical journey, his friendship with Lundy now looks to be pivotal and influential to his career. Vandaveer’s pedal steel guitarist, J. Tom Hnatow, a regular at Shangri-La, adds his efforts here also. Even the artwork for The Wind got a facelift with Jimbo Valentine’s interpretive illustration of a train steaming across the bridge over Kinniconick Creek in Garrison.
The record opens powerfully with “Closer to the Flame,” perhaps its best song as it strongly showcases Bolander’s voice and range while backed by a driving rhythm that evokes sounds of a train starting and stopping. Its delightful guitar work subtly grabs at your attention, although Eric’s voice is impossible to lose track of. The song itself speaks of one’s fears and urges to run, while calling out for the courage to stand and face down whatever evil or harm is threatening.
The album’s title song, “The Wind,” again introduces understated guitar work that captures your attention while you are still focused on the lyrics. With an effective picking style, Bolander has you listening to sounds of a banjo, and maybe we are, though no such instrument credit is cited on the album sleeve. Throughout the song, Bolander asks, “Why don’t the wind blow me away?” in a peculiar juxtaposition of hopelessness and defiance. The result carries a powerful impression to listeners, which can be empathetically applied to their own struggles, seeking the strength to face seemingly impossible adversity.
The Wind has nine songs on its re-release, eight admirably composed by Eric Bolander himself. The exception here is his cover version of Prince’s “Purple Rain,” which at first might appear misplaced on a record looking for a place in the country/roots/folk genre. Yet Bolander appears particularly moved by the song enough to feature it here, and applies his own arrangement and interpretation of it effectively. For anyone tempted to snap claim “bunk” at this project, it’s worth noting much of the music we listen to today is ultimately derivative from country and folk music. Recognizing this, it’s not so inconceivable to envision Purple Rain as such, and Eric Bolander pulls it off admirably here.
Slideshow Photos Courtesy of Alexis Faye @lexwtf
As the album winds down, “Ghost” reflects its pending conclusion in the pace of the song. Short, slow and somewhat abrupt, it still manages to impress with Bolander’s powerful voice, complimented by the impressive work of cellist Seth Murphy. “Ghost” is somewhat somber, although much like the rest of the songs here, it offers some hope as one faces down the demons that haunt them.
Many artists today balance full time careers and family life with their musical endeavors. As a school teacher, nationwide tours are not always logistically pragmatic. Still, where there’s a will there’s a way. Eric has a fairly aggressive summer schedule of solo appearances and shows with his band, Eric Bolander and These Assholes at locations largely in and around Kentucky, but also ranging from Missouri to North Carolina.
The players and principals:
Eric Bolander – Guitars, Bass Guitar, Lead Vocals
Seth Murphy - Chello
Ben Caldwell – Drums, Background Vocals
J. Tom Hnatow – Pedal Steel Guitar
Bongos – William Bratton
Matt Polashek – Saxaphone
John Ferguson - Keyboards
Recorded, mixed, and produced by Duane Lundy
Released Via Eastwood Records in Louisville, Kentucky. The label was established in 2015 by Wesley Allen as a way to support the efforts of regional Kentucky artists and musicians. With a focus on releasing vinyl records, the label’s driving philosophy is “Putting Louisville on Wax.”
Eastwood includes artists such as Nick Dittmeier & The Sawdusters and John Clay
You can find out more about Eric Bolander at: