“Take all of her wishes / Her thoughts and her prayers / Lay them all on the whispers / Of cold men that just don’t care”. Kentucky singer-songwriter Eric Bolander has no problem cutting straight to the cold, hard truth in the soul-stirring country ballads he spins.
The most recent, ‘Cold Men’, chronicles protests led by employees of the Blackjewel Mining Company in Harlan County, Ky. In response to the mine’s closure in 2019, while still owing workers three months of back pay, the song takes the perspective of a young coal miner’s daughter. Born in Garrison, Ky., the coal industry was never prevalent in Bolander’s neck of the woods growing up, although many similarities can be drawn between the conditions many of his family members faced in the area, while working in construction.
“I tried to think about what it would have been like had my dad lost his job with three months' pay still owed to him and no way to care for a family of five back home,” said Bolander. “I then used the emotions stirred up from that and channeled them into the story of a little girl watching her father, who she looks up to so much, struggling and unable to support his family after abruptly being laid off from his job with the mine.”
Produced by Duane Lundy (Ringo Starr, Sunday Valley, Vandaveer) at the Lexington Recording Company, ‘Cold Men’ features stripped down instrumentation, with Bolander wielding an acoustic guitar and backed by vocalist John Ferguson and longtime bandmates Seth Murphy (cello) and Ben Caldwell (drums/backup vocals). Void of flashy production and other smoke and mirrors, they allow the listener to experience the full scale of emotions depicted within - from anger and despair to betrayal and devastation.
While the song was written in response to what happened at Blackjewel, it’s never directly referenced within. Instead, the equivocal theme of men in power not sticking to their word is what sticks out. Far-reaching themes from his experiences as a high school arts teacher, father and former member of the National Guard are what Bolander strives to achieve with his songwriting, which he says stems from his visual arts’ background. He always writes with intent to evoke specific emotions from the various subject material conveyed through his music.
“I consider my strength lyrically not to be with my songwriting but in how I’m able to delve into the emotional responses that I’m getting during the writing process – getting people to experience those same feelings as they hear the music,” says Bolander. “I feel like I can steer the wheel a bit and get folks going in a certain direction, but what I really want is for them to listen and allow the lyrics to take them where they need to go with it.”
The third single released from a potential album to come in late 2021, ‘Cold Men’ follows the swampy folk of ‘Window’ and high-flying ‘Magic Moon’, which altogether lean equally into the realms of rock - from his days performing with Modern Day Relic and Alcatraz Shakedown - as they do country, blues and soul.
Eric Bolander’s ‘Cold Men’ is out now. Watch the video below.