by Steve Mclean
It's been 14 years since Jason & The Scorchers last released an album of new material, but you wouldn't know it by listening to Halcyon Times' 14 tracks.
Group founders Jason Ringenberg and Warner E. Hodges have created an impressive roots-rockin' record that easily stands up to anything the pair did in the '80s when they were among the leaders of a punkabilly movement that showed that Nashville had hot new talent to complement its legendary country music legacy.
The singer and guitarist are joined by a new rhythm section composed of drummer Pontus Snibb and bassist Al Collins, and the record features contributions from former Georgia Satellites leader Dan Baird (including lead vocals on "When Did It Get So Easy [To Lie To Me]"), Ginger from The Wildhearts and Tommy Womack. Hodges co-produced the album with Brad Jones (Chuck Prophet, Hayes Carll, Justin Townes Earle).
"Moonshine Guy/Releasing Celtic Prisoners" gets the album off to an ebullient start, and things pick up tempo and instrumentation-wise from the sparse mandolin introduction on "Beat On The Mountain." Hodges' guitar is unleashed and runs with wild abandon on "Mona Lee," and it hits peaks as stirring and exciting in several places throughout the album. Ringenberg keeps the pace with his distinctive yips and yowls that harken back to 25 years earlier.
There are also quieter, but no less impressive, moments when the listener has the opportunity to savour the stories told in such songs as "Mother Of Greed" and "Land Of The Free."
I was looking forward to hearing Halcyon Times, but it has exceeded my expectations and is one of a couple of contenders to become my favourite album of the first quarter of this year.