Eric Bolander was accustomed to hearing recorded versions of his songs. But cracking open a package containing vinyl editions of his newest album, “The Wind,” was a moment to savor.
“I got the test pressings out at the house, poured me a little bourbon, sat back and listened to it,” said the Lewis County-born Lexingtonian who celebrates the release of “The Wind” with a performance Friday night at The Burl. “I know it was my own music, but it was a cool feeling. Some of that is nostalgia, but I think out of all the trendy things that have been happening, vinyl is staying true to the music. People still like to have a product they can hold in their hands. They like something physical.”
Regardless of what the outside of “The Wind” looks like — and the scrapbook of photos making up the cover art for the CD and vinyl editions is quite absorbing, seeing as Bolander is also a visual artist and an art teacher at Henry Clay High School — the music inside is the true cause for celebration. The record’s mixture of country confessions (“Maybe I”), folk-blues meditations (“Whisper”) and electric Southern desperation (“Closer to That Flame”) point to the full arrival of Bolander as a solo artist. So does the record’s lean, rootsy remake of Prince’s “Purple Rain” and its gem of a title tune, a song defined by a chorus of efficiently descriptive despondency (“Why don’t the wind blow me away”).
“It’s anxiety and enjoyment all at the same time,” Bolander said of having “The Wind” finally in the hands of an audience. “Being a visual artist as well, I experience the same kind of thing. Before you sell a work or have a show, there is this ungodly amount of anxiety that comes with it. I did the graphic artwork for the album, too, so I stewed over every little detail there. Sometimes that clouds my ability to enjoy it. Then again, I really do like having it out. Some of the anxiety comes from having to wait to hear people’s reactions. Now I’m really anxious to hear what they think.”
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Growing up in Garrison, which Bolander proudly boasts of having a population of about 1,400, music was prevalent, even though it was far from a household fixture.
“I wasn’t one of these guys whose mom and dad played. I didn’t pick up a guitar until I was 18 as a freshman in college. But I had an uncle who always had instruments and let me play around on the drums. Also, whenever I had a chance to hang out with dad on a Saturday afternoon with his buddies, I’d go. They’d be sitting out with him, picking bluegrass. My mom’s grandfather also played with a lot of old bluegrass pickers.”
When he was a teenager in the 1990s, radio came into play. Michael Jackson and Chris Cornell became inspirations. After a stint in the National Guard, Bolander found his way to Lexington to attend the University of Kentucky. Once immersed in the local music community, he released an EP with help from Big Fresh chieftain John Ferguson before recording his debut album, “Postcards to Myself,” with Jason Groves locally at Sneak Attack studios. In addition to separate work with the more blues-based band Alcatraz Shakedown, Bolander teamed with Lexington music mainstay Duane Lundy to record “The Wind” at the latter’s Shangri La studio.
“Duane hit me up at a show and talked about liking my style of music. So I met with him, discussed my songs, and next thing you know, we were in his studio laying down tracks. Duane has a unique approach to how he works. His personality comes out in whatever project he’s working on, so I was very happy with how this album came out.”
But for a towering source of motivating inspiration, in life and music, Bolander looks to his father and the work ethic he instilled at an early age.
“My dad passed away when I was 20,” Bolander says. “He was a hard-working carpenter who worked for everything. His work ethic was one thing that was always there. You either do something or you don’t. You don’t sit around and cry waiting for something to happen. You get a job done. There are always going to be people to help you, but that’s going to be on them, not on you. You establish a self-focused drive first, then the other things fall into place.”