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Jason Ringenberg

Empire Builders – 2004 (Yep Roc)

Reviewed by Dan Armonaitis

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CDs by Jason Ringenberg

Jason Ringenberg is used to having an anti-establishment bent. Jason & the Scorchers were known for shocking audiences in the early 1980s with their blistering mix of country and punk rock. But unlike Ringenberg's latest effort, the Scorchers never veered into political commentary.

Although Ringenberg never makes specific attacks in a Steve Earle manner, it's clear that he's not happy about the direction the United States is heading. The percussive opening track, "American Question," pensively asks "Are we an empire all alone throwing the world a rubber bone?" Ringenberg then goes into "Rebel Flag in Germany," which confronts the Confederate flag issue with a hell-raising stomp reminiscent of the theme from "Dukes of Hazzard." "New-Fashioned Imperialist" attacks America's obsession with consumerism with lines such as "'Heil Wal-Mart!' is the battle cry that rings out in the midst." Other highlights include a hillbilly interpretation of Merle Haggard's "Rainbow Stew," an ode to surf guitar wizard "Link Wray," and history-comes-to-life tales such as "Tuskegee Pride" and "Chief Joseph's Last Dream."