by Michael Toland
Fourteen years after their last studio album, Nashville’s JASON & THE SCORCHERS makes an unexpected return with Halcyon Days. Joined by a new rhythm section (original drummer PERRY BAGGS doesn’t play anymore, but he still appears here on harmonies), singer/harmonicat JASON RINGENBERG and guitarist WARNER HODGES pick up where they left off in the late 90s, with a powerhouse set of turbocharged roots rockers and soulful ballads. Ringenberg’s hybrid Midwest/Southern twang hasn’t changed an iota in two decades, while Hodges’ six-string fury remains both technical and tasteful. Joined by co-writers/friends DAN BAIRD (in whose backing band HOMEMADE SIN Hodges plays when he’s not Scorching), TOMMY WOMACK and GINGER (leader of the WILDHEARTS and a major Scorchers fanatic), the pair whip up as consistently fine a set of songs as they ever have. Halcyon Times covers all the bases: working class anthems (“Moonshine Guy/Releasing Celtic Prisoners,” “Beat On the Mountain”), politically charged blasters (“Land of the Free,” “Mother of Greed”), cautionary tales (“Deep Holy Water”), C&W pisstakes (“Fear Not Gear Rot”), state-of-the-musical-union addresses (“Golden Days,” “Twang Town Blues”) and, of course, irresistible goodtime rockers (“Mona Lee,” “We’ve Got It Goin’ On,” the Hodges-sung “Better Than This”). A special treat is “When Did It Get So Easy (to Lie to Me),” an acoustic blues with vocals shared by Ringenberg, Hodges and Baird, all of whom sound like they’re having a blast. Indeed, the joy of a great band playing together at its best pours out of every note on this record, and we can’t help but be swept up in the glee. BRAD JONES‘ bright, shiny production sometimes seems at odds with the Scorchers’ gritty groove, but the band’s organic sound always wins out. Halcyon Days is as strong as a comeback record as any Scorchers fan could ask for.