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Jason Ringenberg

Best Tracks and Side Tracks – 2008 (Yep Roc)

Reviewed by Brian Steinberg

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CDs by Jason Ringenberg

We always knew Jason Ringenberg could swing for the fences. When paired up with his band the Scorchers, it didn't matter much what the guy was singing, just that it was loud, gnarly and twanged. Turns out Ringenberg has got a deft poetic sense as well, as demonstrated by the wide-ranging selections here where there are reworked versions of not only some of his Scorchers songs, but also selections from his solo career.

Ringenberg, a lanky unassuming fellow until you get him behind a mike, was best known for his days with the Scorchers, a rambunctious band that turned country on its ear by adding punk and metal elements to its mix. Those songs assaulted the ear (pleasantly), but there was room for some brainwork, too. It's the lyrics, not the loud guitar buzz, that take prominence in a new version of "Shop It Around." Listeners may also enjoy the "it's-early-days" vibe of "Punk Rock Skunk"; a version of the Scorchers's "Bible with a Gun" that was co-written by Steve Earle as well as some detailed story-songs from later on in Ringenberg's career, including "Eddie Rode the Orphan Train" and "Tuskegee Pride."

The disc also touches on his Farmer Jason days (songs for kids), with selections like "Rainbow Stew." Hey, it doesn't mix in seamlessly with the rest of the disc, but it's miles ahead of Barney...