Ginger’s Secret History Of Rock’n’Roll (Pt.1)
Nashville, early 80s, and Country music has reached a nadir of mainstream ambivalence that ol’ Hank and Mr. Cash would have sneered at from spitting distance. Pop had successfully shaved the edges from all that it had infected, Country being no exception, and soon Punk would follow on this willfully commercial theme with lip gloss and hair gel replacing spit n’ spikes. Joe sang about ‘turning rebellion into money’ and never was there a time where this seemed to ring with more morbid truth.
Illinois native Jason Ringenberg would be the man to change the way that Country music would be heard to this present day, influencing the ‘alt country’ movement in 1990’s and establishing a pounding drive and punk spirit to a genre of music that had long since misplaced any concept of danger.
Forming in 1981 as Jason And The Nashville Scorchers, and releasing an EP, ‘Reckless Country Soul’ in 1982 on the independent Praxis label, JATS were picked up by EMI, delivering mini-album ‘Fervor’ in 1983, both releases hinting at a power that would be harnessed like a wild bronco for 1985’s ‘Lost And Found’.
Produced by Fervor’s Terry Manning, this whip cracking, foot stomping hootenanny opens up with the frantic ‘Last Time Around’ before hurtling into one of rock n roll’s top 5 most thrilling moments, the mean-spirited relentlessness of ‘White Lies’. Written by drummer Perry Baggs, this song, some 20 odd years later still has the ability to simultaneously make love to and bugger the listener senseless.
With the ferocious guitar work of Warner E. Hodges battling for supremacy next to Jason’s howling vocal performances there are few finer examples in the annals of recorded music of how the electricity of personality makes for such thrilling sonic adventure. The sheer pummeling force of the band’s delivery on this track alone holds the ability to lure the listener into some dank, beer-drenched barn dance where one can at once feel the crowd and smell the cowshit.
It’s this same dynamic approach that fuels the Scorchers vicious take of Hank Williams ‘Lost Highway‘, on side two, trading in the dusty romance of the original for a wild, pedal-to-the-floor abandon, just one of the trademarks of this genre blasting group.
While accusations could be, unfairly, leveled at ‘Lost And Found’ for being a mixed bag of southern comforts, the other styles represented here merely reflect Jason And The Scorchers remaining trademarks, namely a classic sense of storytelling balladry, as in the wistful ‘Still Tied’, and their unflinching mastery of pop, like the truly awesome shit-kicker ‘Shop It Around’. Hell, sometimes they just throw all the ingredients into one spicy gumbo soup and end up with the jaw dropping brilliance that is ‘Broken Whiskey Glass’, where the sweetest melody breaks into the fucking Batman riff only to careen off the beaten track in a liquor fuelled breakneck boogie. Holy damn!
The pace on this album is so willfully disjointed that it simply demands constant replay in order to savour a time when such a radical approach to traditional music could actually be seen as outrageous. Yeah, those days may be long gone but it’s still vitally important to remember the pioneers and the unsung heroes who delivered the present day to your stereo.
Jason and the Scorchers not only breathed fiery life into the wizened lungs of a dying genre, they installed a sense of hope and belief in every young person within contagious distance of this punk spirit and country stomp hybrid.
Alongside every well earned accolade placed at the legacy of Ramones influence and spoken with each rightly afforded round of lip service paid to Willie Nelson and Steve Earle’s rejection of NashVegas tradition, Jason And The Scorchers name should be held in equally high regard as an essential section in the evolution of rock n roll.
They made it cool to be you. Yee, and indeed Haw.
Imagine roots, rock and country all in one package - it’s here! Jason & The Scorchers’ shows revolutionised the way people thought of rock ‘n’ roll and country music. This was 1982, a time when playing a country song wearing a Mohawk or shaved head could land the performer in the hospital. No one ever came away from a Scorchers show without having a strong opinion about it. People either wanted to feed them or fight them, and both extremes happened regularly. There was something radically holy about what they did, maintaining the integrity of country while attacking the music with an energy equal to the wildest punk rock bands. R.E.M. became huge fans and the bands toured together. People as disparate as Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols, Bill Wyman of The Stones, or Bill Golden from The Oak Ridge Boys came to their shows. In 1983 the band released its landmark record FERVOR, a six-song EP that “rewrote the history of rock ‘n’ roll in the South” (Jimmy Guterman in Rolling Stone). The record earned them EP Of The Year in The Village Voice and The New York Times. Folks began to take those crazed hillbillies seriously.
HALCYON TIMES is the band’s first album of all new material since 1996, and it’s a hoot! The album is a creative leap forward, showing the band at its peak, not on some sort of self-absorbed nostalgia trip. ‘Moonshine Guy’ opens the record, and is bursting with bravery and bravado, driven by a character who “yells and he roars/like The Stones, hates the Doors.” ‘Mona Lee’ is as exciting as anything the band has ever recorded - it’s hard to pick a standout track on the record - they are all that strong! Hodge’s guitar work has never been better, full of style and inspired originality, while Ringenberg rocks like he is still 18, leaping off the edge of the world, laughing while doing it. Snibb and Collins supply that elusive, magic rock ‘n’ roll groove, full of energy but grounded in confident, unhurried power. Brad Jones, no stranger to the studio, says of Snibb, “Pontus might be the best rock ‘n’ roll drummer I have ever worked with.”
However, like all classic rock records, HALCYON TIMES has more than enough moments of sublime grace to balance out the hormones. Listen to the 12-string on ‘Land Of The Free’ which is like stepping into a Steinbeck novel. Or put on headphones and let ‘Mother Of Greed’ take you down a road that winds from North Wales in 1910 to Birmingham, Alabama in 2009, the protagonists careening from one set of “arms of need” into another. It’s that kind of song, literary without pretensions. In terms of production, it’s hard to imagine a better team than Hodges and Brad Jones. They've succeeded in making a JATS record that captures the live energy of the band, with enough ear candy to keep one coming back for repeated doses. ESSENTIAL.