14 February 2010

Something has long been missing from Jason Ringenberg's valiant solo tours and his appearances as children's favourite Farmer Jason. He was born to front a band, and the band he was born to front is – and always has been – Jason and the Scorchers.

Fourteen years since their last album of all-new material, the Scorchers are back, and back with a roar. Halcyon Days still bears the essence and the energy of the band that changed many attitudes towards country rock in the early 1980s, but this is not a nod to previous glories; it's stronger, maturer and just a little wiser than the Scorchers of the past.
Possibly the standout song is "Mona Lee" – a study in the joys and trials of a long-term relationship that could only come from a band with life experience – with a rocking solo Warner E. Hodges. The overwhelming impressing is of a group of guys having a lot of fun, an impression confirmed by the fact that the song ends with a whoop and the shout "I knew there was a reason I woke up this morning!"

The frenetic numbers are counterbalanced by some extraordinary ballads, especially "Mother of Greed", an exposé of the "modern reality" of inequality and of working-class lives turned upside down by decisions taken far away. It's a theme also explored in the mining tale "Beat on the Mountain".

"Twang Town Blues" is a tale of music industry woe, where cutthroat agents prey on idealistic would-be stars, but with a twist in the tale. Watch out for the look on your friends' faces as you find yourself screaming: "Tonight he'll kill a six-pack just to watch it die!"

The album title comes from the song "Golden Days" – one of the few moments of nostalgia, looking back at the bright moments of life, without regrets, but with also no complaints about the present. "These are golden days."

Ringenberg and Hodges – the other original Scorcher, who also produced the album with Brad Jones – are joined by bassist Al Collins and Swedish drummer Pontus Snibb. The album, which nearly didn't happen because of the cost, was produced with the goodwill of many friends and recorded at the Music Producers Institute, where budding producers and just plain fans get a chance to watch every aspect of the recording session.

Halcyon Times is the perfect antidote to winter, and the band's forthcoming tour of the UK and Ireland is definitely something to look forward to in the spring.