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A Pocket Full of Soul

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Album Review

After almost 20 years cranking out high-voltage cowpunk with Jason & the Scorchers, lead singer/songwriter/auteur Jason Ringenberg takes a trip back — way back — to his roots on his sophomore solo album, and first for his own label. Freed from the electrified confines of his band, Rigenberg's pure, yearning, high-lonesome voice rings out clearly in this 12-song set of acoustic country, hillbilly, and Appalachian music. Whether he's covering Guadalcanal Diary's "Trail of Tears," Johnny Horton's "Whispering Pines," or singing his own songs, Ringenberg's plaintive voice and bare but appropriate instrumentation gives this album a simple, sparse, bucolic feel. It's as if he's recorded these songs around a flickering campfire out on the open prairie. In fact, the opening track features the sound of wind and rain leading into a waltz-time acoustic guitar. The lilting "For Abbie Rose" written for his daughter and most of the other nostalgic tunes here would be totally out of place on a Scorchers release, but theywork beautifully in this homey context. Rudimentary string bass, accordion, fiddles, banjo and Ringenberg's mournful voice, often frighteningly close to Hank Williams Sr.'s evocative warble, combine to fashion an album that might have been recorded in the '50s rather than 2000. It's that authentic, timeless sense of place that creates the shimmering, unpretentious atmosphere here that is as rooted in classic Americana as Woody, the Carter Family, or the Band. While this may be too rudimentary and earthy for wilder Scorchers' fans, Ringenberg proves he's as comfortable, sincere, and unaffected singing these desolate songs of loneliness, religion, love, and wide-open spaces as he is with the whip-cracking punkabilly of his gruff rocking band.


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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A Pocket Full of Soul, Jason Ringenberg
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