Archive for the Jason and the Scorchers Category

Best of 2010: 9-7

Posted in Jason and the Scorchers, Jason Ringenberg, Josh Ritter, Kasey Chambers, Top 21 of 2010 on December 28, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

#9 – Halcyon Times by Jason & The Scorchers

If People. Places. Things. by Drunk on Crutches was my favorite surprise of 2010, then Halcyon Times by Jason & The Scorchers may have been my most anticipated album of the year.  You see, prior to this release, it had been 14 years since an album carried the Scorchers’ name.  Front man Jason Ringenberg had remained active with his solo career and Farmer Jason persona, but most people thought this hugely influential band (The Scorchers were mixing punk and country years before Uncle Tupelo… and they did it in the heart of Nashville) had run its course.  A lifetime achievement award reunited the group in 2008, and this album followed two years later.

Ringenberg and guitarist Warner Hodges are the only two original members involved in this record, but there’s no mistaking this is a Jason & The Scorchers disc.  Ringenberg’s distinctive vocal twang and Hodges’ revved up riffs were always the signature of the band, and both are present in spades on tunes like the album opening “Moonshine Guy/Releasing Celtic Prisoners” and the nostalgic “Golden Days.”  What makes this one really stand out, however, is the sense of maturity present in the album’s quieter moments.  The coal mining anthem “Beat on the Mountain” and the working man’s lament “Mother of Greed” lend a little gravitas to the proceedings.

Jason & The Scorchers: Moonshine Guy/Releasing Celtic Prisoners (Buy Album)

#8 – Little Bird by Kasey Chambers

OK.  I’m cheating a little by including this one (It isn’t the first time).  As is her usual practice, Kasey Chambers has released her new CD Little Bird in her native Australia several months before releasing it in the US.  This strategy gives her the chance to properly tour and promote her album at home (where she is a huge star) before leaving to promote it here.  Because of this, Little Bird will likely bear a 2011 release date when it hits the states, even though I got it from iTunes in September.  Given the impact Chambers’ music has had on my life, I thought I could bend the rules for her.

Musically, Little Bird isn’t quite as rootsy as 2008’s Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson album Rattlin’ Bones (although tracks like “Georgia Brown” come close).  It also isn’t as shiny and polished as 2006’s Carnival (although tracks like the title song come close).  What makes this album so solid is that it marries all of Chambers’ rock, pop, and country influences together in a way that she hasn’t done since Barricades & Brickwalls.  In fact, songs like the guitar driven “This Story” and the mournful “Somewhere” (with Patty Griffin) would have fit in well on that album.  That’s a pretty high compliment in my book.

Kasey Chambers: This Story (Buy Album)

#7 – So Runs the World Away by Josh Ritter

I was first introduced to the music of Idaho’s Josh Ritter through his 2003 album Hello Starling (his third), and have been enthralled by his songs ever since.  “Kathleen” from that album may contain my favorite opening line for a song ever (“All the other girls here are stars./You are the Northern Lights.”), he delivered my favorite album of 2007 (The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter), and now he has provided another strong offering with So Runs the World Away.  With it he proves that he’s one of the strongest songwriters working today.

And songwriting is at the core of what makes this album special.  Ritter tackles some high-concept ideas on a few songs here and pulls them off beautifully.  The mummy love story set to a waltz in “The Curse,” the classic murder ballad character reunion in “Folk Bloodbath,” and the epic maritime tragedy of “Another New World” all take narrative chances and all come out beautifully.  Combine that with songs like the trippy dreamscape of “Change of Time,” the lilting Graceland inspired “Lark,” and the travelogue of “Southern Pacifica,” and you have a particularly well-rounded album.

Josh Ritter: Another New World (Buy Album)

Interview with Jason Ringenberg

Posted in Jason and the Scorchers on October 8, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

You may remember that back in May, I wrote fairly extensively about Halcyon Times, the new album from Jason & The Scorchers.  Well… The Scorchers are currently out touring behind the album, and they made their way through East Tennessee this past weekend.  I wasn’t able to attend the show in Johnson City, but I did get in touch with Jason Ringenberg through e-mail to ask him a few questions about the new record and The Scorchers’ place in alt-country history.

Here are my questions and Jason’s unedited responses.

FiftyCentLighter: Prior to the release of this album, it had been 14 years since the last Jason and the Scorchers record. I would assume that the genesis for this project was the reunion at the 2008 Americana Music Awards Show when the Scorchers were honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award for Performance. Congratulations by the way! What was it like having the band back together for the Conference? Did everything fall back into place once you were back together, or was there a period of readjustment?

Jason Ringenberg:  The band didn’t really reunite in any real sense. We only did 2 songs at the awards show. Getting the award was a huge honor, and it was nice to play with Jeff and Perry again.

FCL:  After the reunion, only two members of the original band signed on for the new album and the subsequent tour. What can you tell us about the new players and what they bring to the table?

JR: Al Collins came on first. He was a friend and colleague of Warners. He is a very subtle but essential part of our new sound. He so effectively holds the wildness together, much like Jeff did in the vintage years.

Pontus Snibb is a colleague of mine from Sweden whom I have played with before. He is so incredibly talented that we deal with having a Swedish drummer. Him and Warner together are much like Page/Bonham.

FCL: Speaking of the album itself, Halcyon Times as an album title, along with several of the songs on the record, evokes a real feeling of nostalgia. The narrator in “Golden Days,” for instance, fondly recalls earlier days and several rites of passage from those bygone days. It’s a song a younger artist couldn’t pull off credibly simply because of the life experiences needed to write it. Earlier this year, I spoke with Brian Henneman of The Bottle Rockets and Chip Robinson of The Backsliders about the different approaches they take to songwriting now that they’ve matured as artists and individuals. After three decades in the music business yourself, how has your approach changed from the early days? Is this a record the Scorchers could have made 30 years ago?

JR: Primarily, the older I get the less I write about myself. It’s mostly about characters now. I am certain we never could have made this record 30 years ago.

FCL: Speaking of 30 years ago… Many different artists share a part in the genesis of the alt-country/cowpunk/whatever you want to call it movement, but I like to trace a significant portion of it back to The Scorchers’ early days in Nashville. At the time, were you aware of what you were starting? Did you have any visions of still doing it 30 years later?

JR: Yes and yes. We knew we were doing something special and we did believe we were long term artists.

FCL: One more question about Halcyon Times… As a native of Eastern Kentucky, an area where coal mining is still very much a part of daily life for many communities, I was particularly struck by the song “Beat on the Mountain.” What was the inspiration for that track?

JR: Thank you. We love doing that song. It seems to resonate with lots of folks, even those who have no mining heritage. The whole coal miner thing, especially the deep shaft miners, really strikes a cord with me. Those people risk their lives daily for their families.

FCL:  What’s on tap next? Is there another Jason & The Scorchers album in the future?

JR: Having experienced that my predictions about Jason and the Scorchers future are usually wrong, I venture none. We take it day at a time and enjoy the ride.

Jason & The Scorchers: Beat on the Mountain (Buy Album)

Random Weekend Post: Jason & The Scorchers

Posted in Jason and the Scorchers on May 8, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

I spoke so much yesterday about Jason & The Scorchers and their halcyon days of yesteryear that I thought I should probably share some of those times with you here.

First is their classic Dylan cover…

…one more rocker…

…and possibly my favorite Scorchers tune…

Jason & The Scorchers: Halcyon Times

Posted in Jason and the Scorchers on May 7, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

The last time I mentioned Jason and The Scorchers on this site was the fall of 2008. The band had just been named the recipients of a Lifetime Achievement Award for Performance from the Americana Music Association. It was a well deserved honor… but the usual implication when a group receives such an award is that their best creative output is behind them. It’s time to celebrate what they’ve done in the past with not much effort spent looking to the future.

In 2008, there was no reason to believe that wasn’t what was happening to The Scorchers. The band was 12 years removed from their last studio album, and front man Jason Ringenberg had been almost as focused on his children’s music alter-ego, Farmer Jason, as he had the fiery mix of punk and country that made up The Scorchers’ primary sound. It seemed as though the reuniting of the original band line-up at the 2008 Americana Awards & Honors show would merely be a curtain call at the end of a hugely influential, if slightly under appreciated, career.
WRONG!
Jason and The Scorchers have just released Halcyon Times, their first album of new material in 14 years, and they sound just as vital and vibrant as ever. From the opening bombast of “Moonshine Guy/Releasing Celtic Prisoners,” Ringenberg and guitarist Warner Hodges (the two original members involved in this release) let the listener know they aren’t ready to rest on their reputation… they have more to give.
Overall, the record has a slightly more subdued feel than some of the albums the band put out in their younger days. When they do turn it loose, however, it’s not hard to imagine yourself back at one of The Scorchers’ legendary Nashville shows when the band was at the height of it’s Hank-meets-The Clash prowess. On the opening track, Hodges fires lick after lick as Ringenberg sings of a protagonist who, “Loves the Stones. Hates the Doors.” Similarly, tracks like “Better Than This” and “We’ve Got it Goin’ On” give Hodges, along with new members Pontus Snibb (drums) and Al Collins (bass) a chance to really get a work out.
It’s the quieter moments, though, that really make this record stand out. Although they can sound like it at times, this isn’t the same band that made its reputation through sheer fire and intensity. The band has matured, and the songs on this record prove it. “Beat on the Mountain” is a modern coal mining anthem made even more poignant in the wake of the disaster in West Virginia. “Mother of Greed” deals with the plight of the working man over three generations… and across an ocean. “Twang Town Blues” deals more with the greed inherent within the music industry and the pitfalls of chasing fame. There’s a wonderful turn of a phrase in “Twang Town Blues” where the narrator references Johnny Cash then watches the subject of the song, “kill a six-pack just to watch it die.”
In the past couple of months, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with Brian Henneman of The Bottle Rockets and Chip Robinson of The Backsliders. Both were big players in the halcyon days of the alt-country movement, both have recently released new albums, and both referred to their new songs as songs they couldn’t have written during the early days of their careers. They referred to a maturity in themselves and their songwriting that just wasn’t present before. For Jason & The Scorchers, these songs have that same feel.
The centerpiece of the album, “Golden Times,” encompasses that feeling perfectly. The song finds Ringenberg looking back on younger days and halcyon times (this is the song that gave the album its title). Girls, cars, music… all the trappings of youth are fondly remembered. Through all the reminiscing, however, Ringenberg reminds us that those times from the past have brought him to the “golden days” of the present.
That song also sums up the album quite nicely as well. Halcyon Times is built on musical nods to Jason & The Scorchers’ past… but it refuses to let you ignore their present.
Jason & The Scorchers: Golden Days (Buy Album)

Americana Music Awards: Lifetime Achievement Award for Performance

Posted in Americana Music Awards, Jason and the Scorchers, Jason Ringenberg on August 18, 2008 by AmericanaPulse

As I’ve mentioned here a few times already, the Americana Honors and Awards Show will take place September 18th at The Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, TN. I’ve been profiling some of the nominees in a few of the different categories and will continue to do so in the days leading up to the awards.

In addition to the annual awards to honor the best music and musicians of the previous year, the Americana Music Association also hands out several special honors and lifetime achievement awards. Today, we take a look at this year’s recipient of the Lifetime Achivement Award for Performing… Jason and the Scorchers.

Although Uncle Tupelo’s 1990 album, No Depression, is widely regarded as the opening salvo of the alt-country movement, Jason and The Scorchers released their debut EP, Reckless Country Soul, eight years earlier in 1982. Like Uncle Tupelo, The Scorchers blended the fiery energy of rock and punk with an earnest country twang. The Scorchers did it first, and they did it in Nashville.

Original members Jason Ringenberg, Warner Hodges, Jeff Johnson, and Perry Baggs will be on hand at the Americana Honors and Awards Show. The original members will also perform together for the first time in a decade at the show and again later that night at The Mercy Lounge.

As I’ve mentioned here before, I never had the chance to see Jason and the Scorchers live, but their live exploits are the stuff of legend. They helped lay the groundwork for what is now referred to as alt-country, Jason Ringenberg’s hat and jacket are on display at the Country Music Hall of Fame, and now The Scorchers join Emmylou Harris, Levon Helm, Chris Hillman, Marty Stuart, Alejandro Escovedo, and Joe Ely as winners of this Lifetime Achivement Award. It’s a well deserved honor.

Here’s a taste of The Scorchers’ body of work.

Jason & The Scorchers: Aboslutely Swee Marie (Buy Album)
Jason & The Scorchers: Harvest Moon (Buy Album)
Jason & The Scorchers: Golden Ball & Chain (Buy Album)
Jason & The Scorchers: 19th Nervous Breakdown (Buy Album)
Jason & The Scorchers: Cry By Night Operator (Buy Album)