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Best Tracks and Side Tracks 1979-2007

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Album Review

Jason Ringenberg is still best known for his 15 minutes of almost fame with the trail-blazing cowpunk band Jason & the Scorchers even though for close to ten years his solo career has been his first priority, but folks who wonder whatever became of that group's firebrand lead singer would do well to give a listen to the fine music he's been making on his own. Best Tracks and Side Tracks: 1979-2007 is a two-disc set that features highlights from Ringenberg's three solo efforts for Yep Roc, tunes from his two children's records as Farmer Jason and a few unreleased tracks and fresh recordings of Scorchers classics. Folks looking to hear Jason rock out should be aware that the acoustic-leaning approach of Ringenberg's recent solo stuff dominates, but the man still knows how to kick it into high gear, as demonstrated by cuts recorded with the Wildhearts, Los Straitjackets and Stace England as well as a rollicking Farmer Jason number "Punk Rock Skunk," which is given some extra guitar firepower for this release. (Ringenberg also throws in a very rare 1980 recording of his pre-Scorchers band Shakespeare's Riot tearing through "Help There's a Fire" with a heap of youthful enthusiasm.) While Ringenberg wasn't able to include any material from his 1992 solo debut One Foot in the Honky Tonk, this collection does feature an unreleased demo of Jason and his road band tearing through Paul Kennerley's "Born to Run" that confirms Liberty Records clearly didn't know what a good thing they had. And while the tone of the new takes of "Lost and Found" and "Broken Whiskey Glass" is a good bit different than the versions the Scorchers wrought years ago, Ringenberg still sings the songs with passion and force, and his new songs show he remains a man who speaks his mind with honesty and fierce conviction, and sings his stories with a pure heart whether he's paying homage to his young daughter, giving Link Wray a shout-out or channeling the spirit of a Native American chief. Jason Ringenberg is an unsung hero of American roots music, and if you haven't been introduced to his solo work, Best Tracks and Side Tracks is a superb place to give him a listen, while longtime fans will certainly want to give the fine new and unreleased tracks a careful listen.


Born: 22 November 1958 in Kewanee, IL

Genre: Country

Years Active: '00s

While Gram Parsons may have the distinction of being the grandaddy of the ill-named "alt country" genre, Illinois farm boy Jason Ringenberg is certainly the man who brought the music -- before the phrase was coined -- to the stages of the world with a vengeance. Born in 1959 and raised on a pig farm in southern Illinois, Ringenberg moved to Nashville in 1981 to try his luck as a songwriter. He formed an acoustic country/punk band with drummer Jack Emerson called Jason & the Scorchers and released...
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Best Tracks and Side Tracks 1979-2007, Jason Ringenberg
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