You can't keep a good man down and Jason Ringenberg is one of the best of them. Boosted by the reception and satisfaction of his 2018 album STAND TALL, everybody's favourite cowpunk, witty, incisive, intelligent lyricist is back with another record as deep and broad as its predecessor. RHINESTONED is a passionate release depicting every inch the portrayal of Jason Ringenberg, namely historical curator, proud custodian of a style and blessed with a cavernous conscious. The starting point of this album may have been some of the leftovers of the previous record, but it has soon developed its own entity and matches up well with what Ringenberg has produced in a long career whether heading the Scorchers, playing up to the Farmer Jason moniker or just the plain solo act with something to offer.
This album has all the distinctive hallmarks of a Jason Ringenberg record from a vocal perspective as well as the routes chosen for the material. Of the four tracks from the gifted dozen that the main man didn't have a hand in writing, there is a non-surprising Hank cover in 'You Win Again' and a fine Carter Family song in 'The Storms are on the Ocean' where Kristi Rose lends a vocal hand steering it in a folk direction. Completing the quartet are a diverse pairing of 'Time Warp', an Ozark Mountain Daredevils original, and 'resurrecting' a traditional Easter hymn in 'Christ the Lord is Risen Today'. Jason Ringenberg certainly keeps you on your toes.
Four of the originals on the album may not be paired together in the running order, but have some synergy when split into twos. 'The Freedom Rides' where heroes of the Civil Rights uprising in 1961 are celebrated and 'I Rode with Crazy Horse' are both acute examples of the past being delved into and Ringenberg re-surfacing with a song that educates as much as entertains, The ultimate for a socially sensitive and historically responsible conscientious songwriter. Connecting the album title in a pair of tracks sees Ringenberg lament a lost beloved city in 'Nashville Without Rhinestones' and proudly proclaim why he got hooked on country music in the first place with the evocative 'Stoned on Rhinestones'. Modern country music and Jason Ringenberg may not always be on the same page, but this old cowboy knows the ropes and is synonymous with the ethics if not the 2021 practicalities.
To further prove the last point, a good ole cheating songs appears in the penultimate running order slot with 'Keep That Promise' and 'My Highway Songs' at the midpoint is 100% autobiographical and a staple for any country songwriting master class. To date Jason Ringenberg has operated alone in the writing stakes or plundered the work of others, but the two final tracks are co-writing efforts with 'Before Love and War' kicking things off and 'Window Town' bringing the curtain down forty-nine minutes after the engine roared into action. This collusion was indicative to how many other players were gradually enlisted to make this a wholly collaborative album in the end.
With a touch of snarling new wave coating the traditional country and progressive Americana, RHINESTONED is unmistakable Jason Ringenberg at his solo best. Passionate, entertaining and downright enthralling; three words that go a long way to summing his music up.
by David Hughes