If Magazine

22 February 2010
by Carl Cortez
Grade: B+

Fourteen years is along time in between new releases, but for Nashville rockers Jason & the Scorchers (fronted by Warner E. Hodges and Jason Ringenberg), they’re picking up right where they left off with their latest effort HALCYON TIMES.

Although the band never achieved the kind of pop radio acclaim that they certainly deserved, the group still put out a sturdy, steady and amazing group of albums throughout the early ‘80s to the end of the ‘90s that defined the country-rock genre.

Like their peers The Georgia Satellites, The Del Fuegos and (later) The Black Crowes, Jason and the Scorchers aren’t interested in lazy keyboards, electronic beeps or auto tuning. This is a rock band through and through and HALCYON TIMES finds them tearing through 14 great new songs which were largely recorded live over a three-day period.

The disc kicks off with “Moonshine Guy”/”releasing Celtic Prisoners” which jump starts things with an urgency rarely heard on rock albums anymore. From there, we get the beautifully haunting “Beat on the Mountain” about working in a coal mine while “Mona Lee” is cool unrequited love song with the refrain, “Mona Lee mon amour/we’ve been down this road before/are your demons keeping score or keeping time.”

There’s a punkish cowpoke energy to “Fear Not Gear Rot” while “Mother of Greed” deals with generational struggle to make ends meet as Ringenberg sings, “So Feed Feed/the mother of greed/steal her grace/from the arms of need/losing history/to a modern reality.”

The rest of the album rocks pretty hard and hits an apex with “Golden Days” talking about growing up and buying Jerry Lee Lewis albums at the record store (among other youthful follies).

The album takes an amazingly intricate musical detour with the exceptional “Twang Town Blues.” It’s spare Americana music at its finest focusing on the vagaries of getting hosed in the record business.

The best track on the album though goes to “Days of Wine of Roses” about accepting the past and moving forward with peace of mind. The writing doesn’t get better and more concise than this hook filled track: “Time Can Steal Most Anything/He’s the Master Thief/He Can Steal My Body/Steal My Mind/But He Can’t Shake My Belief.”

Contributing acoustic and electric rhythm guitars, lead vocals on “When Did It Get so Easy (to Lie to Me) and co-penning a couple of tunes is former Georgia Satellites frontman Dan Baird whose sensibilities fit perfectly in synch with the group, making him a more than welcome honorary Scorcher.

While Jason & The Scorchers are a band out of time, some times that’s a good thing. Their sound may have slightly matured, but they’re still hanging true to their rock and roll roots. With music losing its essence with studio trickery, it’s refreshing when a group can let its balls hang out without worrying about record labels, trends and music videos to dictate their choices. The band has been marching to their own drummer for years (now a Swedish one this time out, no less) and it’s what has made the band endure long hiatuses and as HALCYON TIMES proves that with fourteen years in between, it’s as if they never left.