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Jason & the Scorchers

Midnight Roads & Stages Seen – 1998 (Mammoth)

Reviewed by Brian Steinberg

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CDs by Jason & the Scorchers

Count on this when the Scorchers come to town: It's gonna be loud. On their new double live album, the band that blows country music wide open is at it again, with a set straight from the Exit/In, one of their favorite Nashville haunts. True to form, the Scorchers detonate everything in sight, from their cover of Bob Dylan's "Absolutely Sweet Marie" (perhaps the only Dylan cover - aside from Jimi Hendrix' "All Along The Watchtower"- to improve vastly on the original) to their classic "Broken Whiskey Glass" to their late Eighties hit "Golden Ball and Chain."

One of the few bands to have truly mastered and mixed country yearning and rock n' roll chaos, the Scorchers' act depends heavily on the hiccupping, preachy fervor of lead singer Jason Ringenberg (who may talk a bit too much for his own good here) and hot guitar antics of Warner E. Hodges. Truly underrated, Hodges explodes songs by taking twangy guitar and punctuating it with heavy metal filigree. He melts Hank Williams, Chuck Berry and Keith Richards down into a big ball of wax and dishes it all out while hurling his guitar around his shoulder in mid-riff (Too bad that gets lost in the audio translation of this set!).

Avid fans will have heard many of these selections again and again, but the Scorchers crank even old workouts like "Both Sides of The Line" and "White Lies" to new levels of eardrum-shattering bliss.

Meanwhile, they spit out a cover of "Walkin' The Dog" featuring Hodges' mother on vocals and add new songs like "This Town Is Keeping You Down" to the books. Mavericks keyboardist Jerry Dale McFadden is on hand to help, to boot.

While more recent Scorchers output - especially the sterling studio album "Clear Impetuous Morning"- is somewhat slighted (and how 'bout that earth-shattering cover of John Denver's "Country Roads," boys), live Scorchers are always welcome.