Monday, 25 March 2019

GIG REVIEW: Jason Ringenberg - Kitchen Garden, Kings Heath, Birmingham. Sunday 24th March 2019

Many of the audience were likely to be musically elsewhere in 1982, a time paramount to tonight’s show. However, it was easy to buy into the spirit exuded by Jason Ringenberg when recreating a pivotal moment of the country and punk worlds colliding. The Scorchers brush with the big time may be a distant memory, but the yesteryears roll back when its unassuming leader adopts a revivalist sentiment. Rejuvenated by a solo album, and the renewed faith that there is still life and interest in the old dog, Ringenberg is once again treading the floors of intimate venues injecting a ferocious spurt of passion. The guarantee of an enlightening, informative and entertaining performance is long established and folks heading down the Kitchen Garden way on this Sunday evening experienced a performer enacting a cutting style.

The triumvirate of artist, audience and location aligned perfectly, to the extent of admitting that the wrong venues had been played in Birmingham before. Armed with just an acoustic guitar and a headful of songs, Ringenberg snarled, yodelled and bounced through a qualitative set of songs, forever decorated with fascinating stories and recollections. We learned that Steve Earle forgot he co-wrote ‘Bible and a Gun’, the precise chord change altering ‘Lost Highway’ from a country to a rock ‘n’ roll tune and that Perry Baggs is the best harmony singer Nashville did not tap into. This was just the starters.

STAND TALL is Jason Ringenberg’s new album and not surprisingly a key component for shows on this latest UK tour. Opening the first of his two sets with ‘John Muir Stood Here’ from the album set the scene and the flavour of this new record flowed as further tracks were shared. Like so many gigs attended over the years, a song off the album grows significantly when heard live and this was the case with ‘I’m Walking Home’, with all its historical themes and narratives linking effectively.

Two prominent tracks to make the set list were ‘Looking Back Blues’ (a song getting plenty of airplay interest in the States) and ‘God Bless the Ramones’ (a song leaping from the pile on many first listens). The latter won the request contest on the evening as a little audience interaction helped shape the second set.

The whole breadth of Ringenberg’s career featured including a host of Scorchers’ classics such as ‘Shop it Around’, ‘White Lies’ and ‘Broken Whiskey Glass’. All needed little introduction to the faithful present. Likewise a couple of Farmer Jason contributions introduced as Ringenberg’s alter ego went down well with ‘Tractor Goes Chug Chug Chug’ and ‘Punk Rock Skunk’ lightening the mood. Especially the latter following a solemn cover of Jimmie Rodgers’ ‘Hobo Bill’s Last Ride’.

There are very few humbler and more sincere performers around than Jason Ringenberg. Siding with his outlook, style and approach is an amenable proposition and hooking into his engaging stories is as absorbing as watching him boot scoot in the tightest of performing areas. Animated maybe, but a compelling listening experience bound by two Dylan covers – ‘Absolutely Sweet Marie’ kicking things off nearly forty years ago and the slightly obscure ‘Farewell Angelina’ closing the new album.

This fabulous gig required no support, just an iconic artist updating their relevance and reminiscing about a heyday when the genre fault lines of country and punk were straddled. The Kitchen Garden, Jason Ringenberg and an astute audience were the perfect ingredients for a splendid evening representing the intensity of live intimate music at its best. Without doubt a night for the memory vault.