The Real Country Deal

Best Tracks and Side Tracks 1979-2007
Jason Ringenberg

By Kevin Gibson

Jason and the Scorchers were a rockin' alt-country band when there wasn't such a thing. Taking cues from Jerry Lee Lewis, Gram Parsons and the Ramones, Jason Ringenberg and his Scorchers made a mild splash in the 1980s with high-octane singles like "Absolutely Sweet Marie" (a raucous Bob Dylan cover) and a reputation for blistering live shows.

The Scorchers, unfortunately, existed in a time that was largely bereft of a wide audience for such an act. Legend has it that Ringenberg once publicly announced that he wanted his band to sound "Like a religious service … only a lot dirtier." Had the Scorchers come around just a bit later, they probably would have stood alongside Wilco as part of the No Depression alt-country revival.

Luckily for us, Ringenberg is still making music and celebrates his 30 th year as an entertainer with Best Tracks and Side Tracks 1979-2007 , a two-disc collection of hits, re-recorded songs from his past and rarities.

Truth is, Ringenberg probably could have been a commercial country star. He has an earnest and engaging voice that fits the genre quite well, as he wanders from folk-country ballads ("Bible and Gun," with Steve Earle) to off-beat covers ("Who's Gonna Feed Them Hogs?" from a Tom T. Hall tribute album) and signature twang-rockers like "One Less Heartache" and "Punk Rock Skunk."

There are also some unreleased gems like "Sailor's Eyes," which may or may not chronicle his experience with the Scorchers, and "Mom's 70 th Birthday Song," which is exactly what you think it is. What's encouraging is that even the offbeat stuff isn't haphazard throwaway material. It actually has soul and merit, and holds up well.

This set may be mostly interesting to established fans, but the uninitiated will find plenty here to like as well.

Ringenberg is coming to Louisville as part of the Woodsongs Coffee House series at Unity, hosted by Heidi Howe. The show is Friday, Dec. 5, at 8 pm. Doors open at 7:30 and admission is $10. Unity is located at 757 South Brook Street.

For more on Ringenberg check out www.jasonringenberg.com.