by James Kelly
It's been 14 years since the last studio album from Nashville's cowpunk pioneers Jason and the Scorchers, but the opening notes of Warner Hodges' screaming guitar make it seem like they've been playing every day since then. Once the purveyors of real alt country, the Scorchers followed many paths over the years, including the road to rock. And Halcyon Times rocks. Hard. Jason Ringenberg's energetic vocals are strong, and the live-in-the-studio feel of the album is a perfect showcase for the band's power. With a big assist from former Atlantan Dan Baird, there are a few little snatches of twang (acoustic guitars, story songs, totems) that prove you simply cannot walk away from your roots. Since Reckless Country Soul was released in 1982, Jason and Warner have grown considerably as writers, musicians and human beings; with a hot new rhythm section, the Scorchers' Halcyon Times are nigh. 4 out of 5 stars.
'Twangtown Blues' sees you pushed back again on your bar stool, a shot of whisky has appeared in front of you whilst Ringenberg recounts a story of unscrupulous music men, the dark side of the country music business and how sometimes it's the new guy in town who gets the upper hand. The first half sounds autobiographical, the second smacks of fantasy, but he's buying the drinks so just nod and agree. 'Days Of Wine And Roses' is more than just a nod toward the Dream Syndicate, there's a real Paisley Underground twang to the guitar and though those days of youth and the first flush of love may be "long dead and gone", there's still the future - so carry on. Damn it's good - hey play that one again guys.
You may think they're winding down for closing time, but someone’s just fed the jukebox and as 'Better Than This' roars out you discover that there is some heavy metal on it after all. Hodges's guitar screams, spits and yells as the song thunders along and you are left in no doubt at all by this hard rocking take on carpe diem - it's time to stop dreaming, these are the good times so get up and enjoy them.
'When Did It Get So Easy (To Lie To Me)' is a good question to ask when you walk into the bar and find your girl with another man when she said she was going out with her friends. Lay that question over a pared back spare blues, and get everyone to trade the vocal chores, and the result is a mighty catchy upbeat song about heartbreak and love gone bad.
Now it really is chucking out time -' We've Got It Goin' On' is both a straight ahead rocker and a savvy series of political comments, only a drunkard's logic would ask "does an empire falling ever make a sound", and while you're pondering that one you could miss the critique of picking up your poorest citizens and sending them off to chase a nation's ambitions around the world. And with this there's a shove on your back and you're outside in the rain whilst CLOSED is defiantly put on display - but you can come back again any time you like. And you will.