Once upon a time, 1982 to be exact, a band arose out of Nashville with a most definite un-Nashville sound. At that time, Music City U.S.A. was truly and only a country music mecca. That band, called Jason & the Scorchers, were on a path to shake things up. Fusing punk and honky tonk, it wasn’t until the latter part of the decade that it grabbed a foothold on people in both Nashville and beyond. Led by the tall tenor singer Jason Ringenberg, Jason & the Scorchers were true cowpunk trailblazers for the various movements to follow from alt country to No Depression to even Americana. The band would flame out by the late 90s and Ringenberg would move in a solo direction, even doing some children’s records. Happy to report that after a 10-year absence, he is back with a new solo album called Stand Tall possessing all the fervor of those defining days. It gets the Ear Bliss look-see this week with a new spin-off project from Slim Cessna of Slim Cessna’s Auto Club fame that he calls DBUK and which he brings to Providence for a show at Askew on March 23. Let’s take a look.
Courageous Chicken Entertainment
Sequestered in the Sequoia’s. That is where the seeds were sowed for Stand Tall, the first album in 14 years from Jason Ringenberg of Jason & the Scorchers fame. Maybe you remember Jason & the Scorchers. The band blazed out of Nashville in the early-to-mid-1980s fusing punk energy and attitude with honky tonk country and in effect creating what would soon be described as cowpunk. The band was the square peg in the round hole of Music City, or visa versa, at a time where country & western was beginning to lose the “western” in favor of more pop appeal. Not that the Scorchers were ever any true-blue country band, but the renegade spirit of Hank Williams was sure alive in their Western electric sound. Dressed like a cosmic cowboy, the lanky, high-voiced Ringenberg was the lead singer and songwriter and a commanding presence on stage. When the band ended in the early 90s, he moved in a solo direction working it pretty hard until family and an alter ego side project doing children’s music as “Farmer Jason” took center stage. As for this new album, a little backstory is in order. As it goes, it was an invitation from a National Park Service ranger to participate in the Artist-in-Residency program at Sequoia National Park begins that inspired what would become Stand Tall. It was the summer of 2017 and Ringenberg would spend a month in the midst of the giant Sequoia groves and Sierra Nevada mountains writing songs and performing shows at the park. It proved a perfect setting to get the songwriting juices flowing. Upon return home, he had himself a bag of songs to record. He’d tap some old musician friends from his Southern Illinois rock & roll days to lay down the initial tracks and then enlist a collection of ace Nashville pickers he’s known for years to flesh out the final product. The resulting record is Stand Tall, an 11-song collection that draws its inspiration from various sources, but mostly from that month in the forest. It is an album that should find favor with fans of all phases of Ringenberg’s career from the Scorchers days to his solo side. As for the songs themselves, Ringenberg has crafted some great ones with cuts like “John the Baptist Was a Real Humdinger” and rabble-rousing “God Bless the Ramones” which recounts one of the first Scorchers tours in 1982 opening for The Ramones for a series of dates in Texas moving straight to the head of class in his lengthy song catalogue. Recommended. Visit www.jasonringenberg.com.
Songs Nine Through Sixteen
DBUK is both a side project from Denver-based Slim Cessna’s Auto Club and quite possibly the next step in the evolution of the group. Featuring four members from that band whose music tended towards the gothic side of the rock and roots spectrum, the music of DBUK as demonstrated by the band’s recently released second album titled Songs Nine Through Sixteen is more on the folk side, but with most definite gothic overtones. It hails from the same musical community that has given us the likes of 16 Horsepower and Wovenhand, each of which fall loosely under the alt country/Southern gothic banner. Featuring a mélange of “folk” instrumentation woven into complex arrangements bordering at times on Spaghetti Western, the eight songs comprising Songs Nine Through Sixteen from DBUK are a dark blend of balladry with occasional twists of dark humor. Just a glance at song titles such as “From the Estate of John Denver”, “Bonnie Clyde the Big Bull Hen of the Women’s Prison”, “Deerslayer”, “The Misrepresentation of the Thompson Gun”, and “Coca Colonialism” says enough. It makes for a highly interesting brew of song and music. Visit www.scacunincorporated.com.
The DBUK album release tour lays stakes in Providence on March 26 for a performance at Askew located at 150 Chestnut Street. Norman Westberg from Swans opens the evening at 8 pm.
The good times roll with the Fat City Band at Chan’s Restaurant (267 Main Street) in Woonsocket on Friday night. The following evening, Doors tribute band Through the Doors is in the house. It’s a single show each evening at 8 pm.
It’s another tribute band weekend at the Courthouse Center for the Arts in West Kingston (3481 Kingstown Road). On Friday night, the venue welcomes Heart tribute band Whole Lotta Heart. Southern rock will be in the air on Saturday night when Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute band Barefoot Rebel invades the hallowed halls. Show time each evening is 8 pm.
At the Knickerbocker Music Center in Westerly (35 Railroad Avenue) on Saturday night, Brooklyn-based master guitarist Thor Jensen entertains with his multi-styled blend starting at 8 pm.
The all-star band Lunasa returns to the Blackstone River Theatre in Cumberland (549 Broad Street) for two shows on Sunday at 4 and 8 pm. Call ahead for ticket availability.
Sunday Funday this Sunday afternoon at The Ocean Mist in Matunuck (895 Matunuck Beach Rd) finds Take It to the Bridge playing high-energy funk/rock covers beginning at 3:30. Best of all, it’s a free show! In Pawtucket that same afternoon at The Met Café (1005 Main Street), the Becky Chace Band performs from 4 to 7 pm with complimentary appetizers included with your admission charge.
The always excellent Los Lobos return to the area on Tuesday night for a show at the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River (16 Anawan Street) starting at 8 pm.
It’s all in the Wainwright family at the Greenwich Odeum in East Greenwich (59 Main Street) next Thursday night as it presents an evening with Loudon Wainwright III along with Suzzy Roche & Lucy Wainwright Roche at 8 pm.
Dan Ferguson is a free-lance music writer and host of The Boudin Barndance, broadcast Thursday nights from 6 – 9 pm on WRIU-FM 90.3.