Americana UK

February 2010
by Johnathon Aird

Straight out of the starting blocks with a cowpunk blast - 'Moonshine Guy' - Jason and the Scorchers instantly get your attention. It's catchy, it grabs you and shakes you around by the lapels for a bit, throws an arm around your shoulders and drunkenly yells in your ears about this guy who's a stereotypical "my way or the high way" redneck and you're left puzzled - were they just telling you what a great guy he is?- or did they mean something quite the opposite? Well, too late to ask now, they're moving off down the bar leaving you thinking you're in for the best part of an hour of being buffeted around.

Not a bit of it - the blue collar anthem 'Beat On The Mountain' - is a modern 'Dark as a Dungeon' - it even has the good grace to name check that definitive take on the mining experience whilst at the same time staking a claim to being the new bench mark - there's real emotion in Ringenberg's voice, and a respect for a hereditary profession "where to stand and be a man you have to learn to crawl" I can see this one being covered - a lot.

We're pulled back to our feet for 'Mona Lee' and kept there for 'Fear Not Gear Rot'. 'Mona Lee' rocks out nicely as it takes stock of a long time love - or is it a long time career in music? What the hell - there are fiery guitar solos and country riffing to keep this one driving alone. 'Fear Not Gear Rot' is maybe one drink too many as there's a communal stumbling over a bad tune with nonsense lyrics and a vocal I don't want to think about. After this excess it's perhaps not a surprise to see some reflection sailing into view - 'Mother Of Greed' recounts the tale of an American family history from an emigrating unemployed Welsh factory worker to a family home that is swept aside by a new interstate highway. And it's also a journey from old poverty to new poverty as greed continues to win out over the working man - "now I rush down this interstate, my credit shot and my mortgage late".

A return to blasting rolling rockers with 'Getting Nowhere Fast' which ticks all the good-time boxes and leads into the very mighty 'Land Of The Free', steamy swamp guitar underlies this commentary on American overseas adventures, from Vietnam to the deserts, with faint banjo and shock-and-awe drumming. 'Halcyon Times' grabs all the golden moments from adult life and lays them out one after another like a hand full of winning cards - rock and roll at 19; 21 coming of age get a girl, a drink, and a gun; 25 marriage and beyond and now looking back you would do everything the same if you could do it again. It's no maudlin nostalgia trip ballad either, this rocks along at a sprightly pace. 'Deep Holy Water' backs this up with an affirmation of the joys of breaking free, and bounces along with a half borrowed riff of boogie blues and a raucous harmonica.

'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.