by Nic Howden
Beachland Ballroom 1/13/09
by Matt Wardlaw
Well hello vinyl citizens!
So it seems that I’ve been away for a little bit. I’m so behind the blogging 8 ball, I don’t know where to begin! Real life has been hogging up large amounts of my precious free time of late. Mother Nature also kindly decided to dump a hella-ton of snow on Cleveland this past weekend (with more on the way!) Shoveling that evil white stuff didn’t really leave me with a ton of energy for blogging, and my thoughts kept drifting back to that snowblower I was supposed to buy this summer. I guess that didn’t happen!
Today’s entry is a guest review from my buddy Kevin, chronicling our New Year’s Eve night out at the Beachland Ballroom with Jason and the Scorchers, Stacie Collins, and Cleveland’s own Whiskey Daredevils. As the Scorchers took the stage, Kevin leaned over and said “I have to warn you, you’re about to see a motherf*cker of a guitar player!”
That night, Scorchers guitarist Warner E. Hodges spun round and round and round leaving me with dizzy good memories the next morning of the perfect New Year’s Eve spent with a couple of good friends at the Beachland. As for the show? Well, I’ll let Kevin tell you about that one….
All hail the kings of cowpunk! The return of Jason and the Scorchers to Cleveland after a ten-year absence was indeed a cause for celebration. Back together on the heels of receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Americana Honors & Awards Show in Nashville, the band rocked in the New Year with a thunderous twang all its own.
Ripping through about 20 songs over two hours, the Scorchers took the Beachland Ballroom crowd on a great ride through their catalog while also bringing the bassist’s wife onstage for a few songs, dazzling the audience with a rumbling version of “Auld Lang Syne” complete with Jason on Gaelic lyrics, asking everyone to vote for their favorite Scorchers album, and showing why they are true pioneers worthy of their recent recognition.
While Jason doesn’t prowl the stage and create the I’m-about-to-jump-out-of-my-skin type of frenzy that he used to, his calmer demeanor reflects a complete command of the band’s material and also its legacy. As a performer, he combines the genuine everyman appeal of country legends such as Hank Williams and Porter Wagoner with the urgency of his punk contemporaries of the 70s and 80s who brought it hard, fast and loud because they could.
The gunslinger in this group is ace guitarist Warner Hodges, whose patented over-the-shoulder guitar whip is still as awesome as his playing. His versatility was on full display as he produced beautiful country-western tones that would shake the ghosts of Merle Travis and Chet Atkins right alongside roaring blasts of rock and roll that just kept coming like a train.
Replacing original members Jeff Johnson and drummer Perry Baggs on bass and drums are former Clevelander Al Collins, husband of singer Stacie Collins whose latest album was produced by former Georgia Satellites frontman Dan Baird, and Fenner Castner, who has recorded with Bill Lloyd and Tommy Womack among others.
Opening with a hammering take on “I Can’t Help Myself” from the band’s debut EP “Fervor,” the early years were well-represented by “Last Time Around,” “White Lies,” the so-classic-Dylan-could-have-written-it “Pray For Me Mama, I’m a Gypsy Now,” and a stunning version of “Both Sides of the Line” featuring the wizardry of Hodges.
Two songs from the undeservedly-overlooked album “Thunder and Fire,” which preceded the first breakup of the band, were pleasant surprises. “Find You” rocked just like it did 20 years when it somehow missed heavy rotation on MTV. Jason told a funny story before “When the Angels Cry” about his co-writer on the song, Grammy-Award winner Don Schlitz, who commented that he liked working with Jason because he “didn’t have to be commercial.” If that doesn’t about say it all.
Getting back to the bassist’s wife, Stacie Collins joined the Scorchers onstage for a few songs including a throwdown on Loretta Lynn’s “You Ain’t Woman Enough to Take My Man,” and Jason’s own ode to true love, “200 Proof Lovin’” from 1995’s “A Blazing Grace.” Stacie is the real deal, a honky-tonk queen who can belt it out and back it up with some big chops on harmonica. Make it a point to see her live.
Jason and Warner took center stage alone for a few tunes, the highlight being a hauntingly stark rendition of “Jeremy’s Glory” from “Clear Impetuous Morning.” This was the point in the show when the Scorchers rookies in attendance had all doubt removed and realized the company they were in.
The night moved into overdrive as Warner beat his guitar to the opening strains of the John Denver million-seller “Take Me Home Country Roads.” Rarely has a song been so right for a band and rarely has a song been as transformed as it was in the hands of Hodges.
Closing with a fury that included their all-time classic “Broken Whiskey Glass,” the Scorchers showed why they still matter and that there still may be something for them to say. If not and this is all there is, it was a great way for them to bring closure to their Cleveland fans.
If they continue to perform together and end up doing more gigs this year, be sure you take the time to see the Scorchers. A great American singer and songwriter, a living guitar legend and a rhythm section that won’t quit all add up to one hot time in whatever town you’re in.
Glasgow ABC, 7th May 2008
by Paul Kerr
Although Jason Ringenberg has been a regular visitor to these parts over the years I think this was the Glasgow (and perhaps Scottish) debut of the band he made his name with. Accordingly a fired up audience gathered to see this visitation by one of the great 80’s bands.
Fresh from their support slot tour with Chuck Prophet, The Wynntown Marshals opened with an all too short set. Risen from the ashes of The Sundowns (a 10/10 album on Americana UK with Calabasas), they have lost one of their major songwriters, Ross Taylor, but maintain the excellent Keith Benzie who now handles all the frontman duties and drummer, MC and general powerhouse behind the band, Keith Jones. In addition there is Iain Barbour, a veritable guitar for hire who pops up on record and gigs throughout Scotland and who adds a new dimension to the band sound.
Despite a difficult, bass heavy sound at times, the Marshals had 30 minutes to wow the audience and by and large succeeded. With no time to play their epic 11:15, the highlight of their current mini album (a great pity), they managed a selection from the disc including “Silent Movie,” and “I should‘ve guessed.” There was a nod to the Sundowns with “Said to Me” and a rendition of their latest single, “Ballad of Jayne,” a countrified version of an LA Guns' song.
As with the Sundowns they carry an authentic whiff of Americana in the writing and performance and with Barbour, who at times was banging and knocking his guitar and producing a twang element of a very high degree, it bodes well for the Marshals’ future.
Jason Ringenberg before the show at the merchandise table, looked as if he wouldn’t say boo to a goose. Mild mannered and pale you would walk by him in the street. On stage he was a man transformed. A dervish, dancing and clapping, playing wild harmonica riffs, witty and engaging in his intros, the crowd were eating out of his hand. In addition, guitarist Warner E. Hodges had his own fan club pressed against the stage barrier and he played to the crown in an excellent fashion. From an immediate, barnstorming opener “Absolutely Sweet Marie” they whipped up a storm. Frenzied versions of the back catalogue including Shotgun Blues, Going Nowhere, Broken Whisky Glass, Pray For Me Mama, Hot Nights in Georgia and Drug Store Truck Driving Man (with a great intro from Jason) formed a two hour set. Hodges pulled out all the stops with his trademark guitar slings and careered through a version of Parson’s Las Vegas.
This was a band who seemed to be having more fun than the audience at times and as the set progressed there seemed to be more abandon. At the end there were audience singalongs and finally, during the encore that included White Lies Jason was in the audience, walking along the bar, jumping onto the seat partitions and giving his all. By the end the band appeared drained, Jason’s voice was going and the audience were sated. An excellent night
Interview by Soren McGuire
At one of the recent Jason & The Scorchers re-union shows sweeping across the British isles, we had a chat with Jason Ringenberg, leadsinger with the legendary Nashville country-punk outfit. Unfortunately the interview was cut somewhat short by the roaring sound of guitars being tuned and tested for the show, but for a good ten minutes, Jason Ringenberg told Americana about touring, hating his own voice and being called the Godfather of country punk. Short and to the point.
How did this re-union tour come about?
We haven’t toured with The Scorchers for well over ten years. And the reason we got back together, well it wasn’t really a thought out process. A few people wanted to put on some shows with us and it sounded interesting. And you know how one thing leads to another and pretty soon we were doing a full tour. We did some shows in England, Scotland and Ireland and we liked how it felt. There’s a lot of young people coming to these shows. They seem to be as in to us as the old fans were. That’s great.
But you’re not touring the States?
No. I know some our fans were a bit pissed about us not doing any of these reunion shows in the States, but a few of them actually flew over to see us when we were in Europe. I think we need to tour back home at some point.
So does all this mean there’s a new album on the way?
We don’t have any new songs yet. We’d like to put out a new album, but that’s hard when you don’t really have any new songs to put on it. So we’ve just been playing a lot of classics. We have a lot of catalogue, a lot of records and a lot of songs we can play.
You recently put out the collection ‘Best Tracks And Sidetracks 1979-2007’. What went through your mind going through all those Scorchers songs and solo songs?
It was really difficult. You have to wade through all that material. I don’t like listening to myself to start with, so it wasn’t easy listening to my own songs while picking out the ones that should go on this album. But I had a couple of guys I really trust helping me sorting it out.
You have three daughters now. How does that fit in with your image as Nashvilles big hellraiser?
I need to be a bit more careful about what I say these days. We still rock as hard as ever, but when I’m playing with The Scorchers, I’m in this kind of alternative reality. It’s a role I play.
You’ve also been called the Godfather of country-punk. Something to put on your buisness-card then? I think I’m somewhat overrated to be honest. I know myself too well to be freaked out about the tags. But we just found out that the Americana Music Association are going to give us their Lifetime Achievement Award, so that’s cool. I think we’ll just go and get the award, do our speech and look important. Like you’re supposed to do at those things.
carnage and culture
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Nashville's greatest rock band, Scorchers get their due
By PETER COOPER
September 14, 2008
Words by Max Bell, photos by Tony Mottram
Mercy Lounge, Nashville, September 18, 2008
Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
The Scorchers Give It Back
Maybe it was the joy of winning a lifetime achievement award from the Americana Music Association earlier in the night, but Jason & The Scorchers were up to their old tricks later that night in concert. That meant a combo of punk and country elements, something referred to as cowpunk, all in good fun.
While the band has not played all that much together in recent years, their quite generous two-hour effort before an enthusaistic crowd did not seem any worse the wear. Jason Ringenberg, the lead singer, decked out in a long black and white cowboy jacket was in fine form. He spins and twirls with the same energy of old, and his vocals remain sturdy, holding notes with a bit of a twang.
The other key player is guitarist Warner Hodges. His energy also was palpable whether spinning the guitar around his back or just himself. But more importantly was his guitar playing, which as usual added a lot of bite to the songs.
The songs reached through The Scorchers' catalogue. There may been a bit of a sameness at points to the songs, but the energy level remained high throughout whether on their best known song, Shop it Around or on Greetings from Nashville. The band certainly doesn't take itself too seriously. Ringenberg joked at one point in introducing Cappuccino Rosie, "Here's a song from our newest record, back in 1996."
Former member Jeff Johnson, who left about a decade ago, showed up both at the AMA awards show and at the concert, guesting on acoustic guitar on one song. "It never sounds quite right without Jeff," Ringenberg said. The ballad proved to be a very good change of pace.
Jason & The Scorchers brought a different kind of sound years ago to country and rock, though the country crowd was never going to play the music. But the band received its just due earlier in the night and gave it back later.
Norwich Arts Centre, April 30th 2008
by Mick B.
Does it annoy anybody else when bands feel that they have to make up for their total lack of talent by babbling constantly about who knows what whilst on stage? Seriously, I want to hear your music, not your life story. At times it can seem escapable in this Chris Martin influenced world where most front men could do with taking personality lessons from a lettuce.
Fortunately for a packed Norwich Arts Centre, this doesn’t seem to be a problem for Jason Ringenberg, who strides onto the stage with a ‘Cheers mates, we’re Jason and the Scorchers’, before the band launch into the rather brilliant rawkus country-punk of Absolutely Sweet Marie. Ringenberg has certainly got the sweet as hell dance moves down to the core, and his onstage antics are perfectly supported by guitarist Warner E. Hodges, who spins around so much during songs it is a wonder that he remains standing.
This is the Scorchers first tour in ten years, albeit it with a new line up, and they are certainly all about the music. They play two sets, full of favourites and spot-on, hectic covers, including Jerry Lee Lewis’ Great Balls Of Fire. Here is a band that at times it seems ridiculous that they are not playing stadiums, as it is so easy to imagine thirty thousand people jumping in unison to Shop It Around (which was after all a UK chart hit at no. 38), whilst in their more frantic moments they seem as if they would be more suited behind chicken wire in a tiny Southern American bar, proven when they play That Night In Georgia, so much that it isn‘t surprising to see the occasional barn dance break out amongst the audience. It would be safe to bet that When The Angels Cry is what Gram Parsons would sound like if he’d survived the seventies, whilst testament is paid to the legend himself with a couple of covers in the second set, most notably Drug Store Truck Drivin’ Man.
Possibly the night’s most poignant moment comes midway through the second set when the Scorchers play Good Things Come To Those That Wait. Indeed they do, good sirs, indeed they do.
Words by Adrian Cooke
Interview by Jeremy Searle
Still Scorchin' after all these years
One of his stage suits hangs in the Country Music Hall Of Fame. He founded and led one of the most incendiary bands of any music genre anytime anywhere. He has an alter ego who sings wickedly funny animal songs to children of all ages. He's recently celebrated thirty years in the music business with a career-spanning compilation album. He is Jason Ringenberg of Jason and the Scorchers fame, also increasingly familiar as Farmer Jason, currently in the UK to promote said album.
'I still feel excited' he says. 'I'm looking forward to tonight's show, which will be his fifth in two days (Ringenberg does Farmer Jason shows in the afternoons and solo sets in the evenings) and I'm looking forward to it as much now as any show I did when I was 18. Writing a good song still excites me but what keeps me in the business is the absolute addiction to live performance. I'm addicted to it, there's no question about it. It's a level of excitement, wanting to get on that stage. I can't imagine a better high in the world really. At the end of it you've definitely done a tour (laughs). But actually I love every minute of it, I wouldn't trade it for the world.'
The big news for Ringenberg lately has been the reuniting of the Scorchers for the first time in well over a decade. With a solid solo career and Farmer Jason really taking off this initially looked like something of a backward step and Ringenberg is characteristically honest about it. 'I did that tour because they threw a lot of money at us' he owns, 'but when we got into it I found myself enjoying it more than any tour I've done in a long long time. I really got into the new rhythm section (currently the Scorchers feature Fenner Castner on drums and Kenny Ames on bass), the way Warner (Hodges, the Scorchers flamboyant and flamboyantly talented lead guitarist) was playing, the spark was there more than it'd been in a long long time.' So will there be more from the Scorchers?
'Absolutely yeah, I'm sure there will now. I went into this tour saying it was the last one, I told Warner that was it, we need to pretty much call this quits, at least go into an extended, indefinite hiatus but, you know, if the cards fall right we might do some more work, though the reality is having to write songs that were as good as 'Broken Whisky Glass' and 'Victory Road' and 'Still Tied' and 'Pray for Me Mama (I'm a Gypsy Now)', to write songs that stand up to those, that's gotta be done first (laughs) because if we're going to make it real we have to make a new record otherwise we become our own tribute act. That said, Farmer Jason has been the main focus of my career over the last couple of years and will be for quite some time I think. It's really a fun, cool world to live in.'
Although initially Ringenberg built Farmer Jason on his Scorcher fan base bringing their children ('in a lot of cases grandchildren' he notes wryly) he's moved on to a much bigger audience now and that can sometimes cause him problems, particularly after his strongly political last album Empire Builders was released.
'I have to be really careful trying to entering the bigger world that I'm entering with Farmer Jason' he says. 'It can get you into trouble, especially in America. I did take some heat too from the American Scorchers fans when I put out Empire Builders. A lot of those guys, especially the forty-something guys who saw us in college in Auburn or Atlanta, the South, they were pretty conservative guys and they've grown up to be Republicans and conservative folk and they sort of saw us as their band and when I came out with that record they gave me the benefit of the doubt, but there was some doubt and there were some...discussions about it.'
'But I had the attitude and still do that I don't have anything against those kinds of folks or think they're wrong or anything. Once we could talk about stuff they found I respected where they were coming from and things worked out ok. But having said that 'Rebel Flag In Germany' got played on XM Satellite Radio, the big national radio station, and it just enlisted a storm of bad reaction and some of them were old Scorchers fans saying 'I like Jason & The Scorchers but I hate 'em now' and they were getting all these emails and they ended up pulling the song.'
The parallels with Steve Earle and 'John Walker's Blues' are clear and it still seems strange how people can be fanatical about a performer, follow them for twenty years, have all their albums, have seen them many times and then after one song say 'I hate everything about them.' Fortunately Ringenberg doesn't see it as a major problem. 'I think it's a pretty rare thing' he says 'I think most people eventually will come back. And anyway, if you are a conservative Republican then well, you know, most artists are liberal so eventually you've got to kinda get over that or you won't be able to listen to anything!'
Ringenberg's new album, which covers his whole career from the days of his first band Shakespeare's Riot through to the latest Farmer Jason album, was really difficult to pick tracks for, he says. 'At first I tried doing it myself and it drove me crazy' he recalls. 'I don't like listening to my stuff anyway but I began doing it myself and got really bogged down and I started really questioning whether I even had the validity to do a project like this, whether I even had strong enough material, so I just turned it over to some friends of mine, Arty Hill, Bruce Hilton and Stace England. Those are guys that know my stuff well and they're all stars in their own right.'
Ringenberg is keen to stress that the absence of original Scorchers material on the album (all the Scorchers tracks included are re-recordings with a variety of bands including The WildHearts and The Woodbox Gang) was an artistic decision rather than because of any commercial issues. 'If we're going to do a Best Of record and include the Scorchers it needs to be a Jason & The Scorchers record. That's a record that needs to be made but I don't have the power to do that at the moment' he says. 'This compilation felt like it was closing off a stage in my life, a full stop on a point in my career and I don't think there will be another solo record for a while. I'm concentrating heavily on the Farmer Jason side and I'm doing a lot of work with that the rest of this year. In terms of another recording I would probably do a Scorchers record at this point I think and I just don't feel driven to do a solo record at the moment. In the future I may again but it won't be for a long time.'
Ringenberg still has unfulfilled ambitions though, even after thirty years. 'I'd like to have some commercial success at some point' he laughs, 'just to know how it would feel! It's not that I have to have it because I make a living so I'm happy about that but just to have that sort of thing happen in some sort of way would be interesting. How it could happen I don't know but it would be fun.' More importantly he doesn't see any end in sight to his music making. 'There's a lot more cool stuff to be made and I think I'm just beginning with Farmer Jason' he says, 'and I really believe that I'll be doing this when I'm seventy years old. That's just a wide open world, it is a whole world, it's an imaginary world I'm creating as we speak. Not only that but I do believe that, of our generation, Jason & The Scorchers have the sort of ability to do what Jerry Lee Lewis did and what the Rolling Stones did with their generation. I think you'll see us and go 'wow, those guys are sixty years old and rocking like crazy'. The important thing though is to have new material, a really valid new album to tour, and if we have that, well me and Warner are still in great health and still love playing and we can always get these young rhythm sections! We still have the enthusiasm so why not?'
by David Dunn