|Photo by Tony Mottram|
Back in 1976, a stale UK rock scene was re-invigorated by the insurgence of punk. Five years later, a similar development was evolving in the world of country rock in the U.S. and, at its core was a four piece band from Nashville led by Jason Ringenberg who had gravitated to music city from his Illinois home in pursuit of musical recognition. The result of this fusion of traditional country, rock and the raw energy of punk saw Jason and the Scorchers adopt the mantle of pioneers in the spawning of another strand of country that would evolve into the emergence of alt-country as an identified movement. Thirty years on, and after decades of industry if not total commercial recognition, the band are commemorating this milestone by including a short tour of the UK in their schedule, where they have a healthy and committed following.The well established Musician Pub in Leicester was a Midlands stopping off point in the band’s itinerary and an almost sold out gathering of young and old fans alike demonstrated the loyalty that has seen them develop a cult-like status amongst connoisseurs of Americana music. Over the course of the hour and three quarter set, the adoring faithful, some clutching rare vinyl releases awaiting signature, were treated to vintage Scorchers and all the high octane energy that has been the hallmark of one of their live shows. Ringenberg is one of the most sincere artists you come across as a front man of a band and just like thirty years ago during the pioneering days, he shares top billing with master craftsman Warner E Hodges, one of the finest rock guitarists operating out of Nashville. Bassist, Al Collins, the other half of country rocker Stacie Collins, and Swedish drummer Pontus Snibb make up the current quartet. Their onstage chemistry is a quintessential part of a Scorchers live appearance, all co-ordinated by the dedicated passion Ringenberg has for the music he believes in and performs. This is also a feature of his solo shows he brings to the UK and his children’s entertainer re-incarnation as Farmer Jason.
It didn’t take long into the show for Ringenberg to pay homage to his true inspiration, referring to Hank Williams as rock n’ roll’s first great poet before launching the band into a ratcheted up version of ‘Lost Highway’. Throughout the show he displayed his humility to some of the iconic figures of country music when playing a Steve Earle collaboration ‘Bible and Gun’, revisiting an old cover the band did of the Gram Parsons/Roger McGuinn song ‘Drugstore Driving Man’ and delving into his distant recording past following an invited obscure fan request for his take on Faron Young’s ‘Hello Wall’. However these interpretations are only a small part of a Jason and the Scorchers’ gig as for the rest of the evening the crowd were treated to a constant stream of trademark cow punk tunes that have originated from the creative efforts of the band over the past thirty years.A developing theme of the evening was the affection and pride the band feel for their most recent release 2010’s HALCYON TIMES. Constant references were made to this album and included in the set were ‘Golden Days’, ‘Moonshine Guy’, ‘Better Than This’ (with Hodges taking over lead vocals) and ‘Fear Not Gear Rot’. The band also paid tribute to their late drummer Perry Baggs, who laid the foundation of the song ‘Somewhere Within’ and on this evening current drummer Pontus Snibb stepped forward to deliver lead vocals for its performance.
The rest of the main set consisted of crowd favourites including ‘Absolutely Sweet Marie’, ‘Last Time Around’ and, what has become the Jason and the Scorchers signature track, ‘Broken Whiskey Glass’, with Ringenberg turning the mic towards the audience for its sing along chorus. One other song that impressed during the evening was ‘Thanks for the Ride’ where the band showed their true appreciation for the support they have enjoyed over the years.So all that was left was the finale and to fill the band’s two encores there was great delight in the much shouted out popular songs ‘White Lies’ and ‘If Money Talks’, although the third track of their extra stint ‘Crashin’ Down’ from the STILL STANDING album was one of the highlights of an extremely enjoyable and loud evening. No doubt Jason and the rest of the guys would have been in much demand for the after show meet and greet, but for those of us experiencing our inaugural Scorchers live exposure, just the satisfaction of witnessing a performance of one this genre’s great innovators would suffice