by Mike Davies
I well remember when JATS burst on the scene 27 years ago with their rebel rousing, tear it up cover of Absolutely Sweet Marie, swiftly consolidating with accompanying album Fervor and follow up Lost & Found and such alt country rocking and Southern honky tonk diamonds as Hot Nights In Georgia, Harvest Moon, Broken Whiskey Glass, Blanket of Sorrow and Shop It Around.
Despite songs like Golden Ball And Chain and Bible And A Gun, they never again managed to produce albums of such sustained brilliance and excitement and, while they never officially disbanded, there’s been little evidence of them since the 1998 live set Midnight Roads & Stages. Indeed, rhythm section Perry Baggs and Jeff Johnson are no longer part of the intermittent line-up.
However, 14 years on from Clear Impetuous Morning, guitarist Warren E. Hodges has persuaded frontman Jason Ringenberg back into the studio alongside new players Al Collins and Pontus Snibb for an album that, if it doesn’t actually contain any stone classics, does go quite a way to recapturing old glories.
They can still rip it up with a frantic rock n rolling pace, ably demonstrated on the opening Moonshine Guy and its Releasing Celtic Prisoners rowdy jig midsection, the vintage Southern country cowpunk Mona Lee with its 19th Nervous Breakdown riffs, bluesy swagger Deep Holy Water and the breakneck Getting Nowhere Fast. Elsewhere, Land Of The Free keeps the muscle pumped but takes the tempo down to a Neil Young electric bluesy burn and Days Of Wine And Roses jangles with soaring memories of The Byrds.
The album also serves reminder that the band can turn on the keening high lonesome ballad with the best of them. Listen to the plaintive ache of Beat On The Mountain miner’s lament and Mother Of Greed which traces the Ringenberg family history from the coal seams and factory closures of 1910 North Wales to contemporary Alabama.
More than anything, though, crackling with their live energy and the volume cranked up loud, it makes you want to pull on your jeans, grab a beer and raise hell. And such legacies are worth cherishing.