In one sense you could say that Jason Ringenberg has always honored the past. The legendary rocker and former frontman for the seminal Americana band Jason and The Scorchers has always peppered his albums and live shows with a host of charged-up cover songs that were done in the spirit of honoring both the original songs and the artists. His original songs have always followed much the same track and his music has always been one of the best examples of how as an artist you can effectively link the music of country music’s forefathers with the fire and intensity of punk rock.
While that spirit has not left him, what’s somewhat different about his new album Rhinestoned is that he couples his respect for the past with an urgent concern about the future. I say somewhat because that concern has always been present in his music, it’s just a bit more pronounced on this LP.
For Ringenberg that concern is based primarily on the danger of us forgetting what was noble and good about the past, both musically and historically. The two centerpiece songs on the album “Nashville Without Rhinestones” and “Stoned On Rhinestones” succinctly encapsulate this feeling. With rhinestones used as a metaphor for the spirit of the country music of Hank Sr., Lefty Frizzell, Johnny Cash, and countless others, the former song laments the underappreciation of the music and the culture by the current day Nashville scene while the latter is a smoking rockabilly ode to that culture.
Ringenberg populates the rest of the album with historical references songs (“Before Love And War,” “The Freedom Rides Weren’t Free,” “I Rode With Crazy Horse,” and “Time Warp”), three cover songs ( the Carter Family’s “The Storms Are On The Ocean,” Hank Williams’ “You Win Again,” and Charles Wesley’s hymn “Christ The Lord Is Risen Today”) and three songs that would have been right at home on any one of his other records ( “My Highway Songs,” “Keep That Promise” and “Window Town”) that all serve to undergird the basic premise of the record that history is something that happens right in front of our eyes.
At the album’s end, the listener is left with the undeniable truth that with this Jason Ringenberg continues to solidify his stature as one of the great American song chroniclers, an artist capable of constantly being able to expand his sound and look forward while he simultaneously honors those who came before him. By so doing, Ringenberg sets an example for all of us to follow.
Rhinestoned by Jason Ringenberg was produced by George Bradfute and is now available on the artist’s website.