Jason Ringenberg remains a vibrant, seminal cornerstone for modern Americana. Exploding out of Nashville in the early 1980s as front-man for the Scorchers, Ringenberg and his colleagues - full of fire and fervor - released a series of albums of roots-rock that influenced a generation. Jason & the Scorchers were the alt.-country Velvet Underground: not many bought the albums, but those who did started a band.
A series of solo releases along with an occasional Scorchers reunion kept Ringenberg front-and-center for a couple decades, and eventually, Farmer Jason emerged performing quality, kid-friendly material. The last Ringenberg album was released in 2004, and even he felt his days as a recording artist had given way to tomatoes, chicken and the family farm.
An invitation to serve as artist-in-residence at Sequoia National Park was the impetus for creative resurgence. The resulting album recaptures Ringenberg's fire-brand approach to rockin' country punk.
While some of Farmer Jason's phrasing sneaks in, for the most part, this is Ringenberg as elder-statesman, albeit one who can still dance around the stage for a couple hours.
Looking back to the Scorchers ("God Bless the Ramones") occasionally, the majesty of his surroundings in Northern California inspired a number of striking songs including "John Muir Stood Here," "Here in the Sequoias" and the title track, a sweeping instrumental that could have introduced a '60s series such as The Big Valley.
The Civil War epic "I'm Walking Home" and "Lookin' Back Blues" ("I got the lookin' back blues, and I don't mean Luckenbach Texas") would have fit comfortably on any previous Ringenberg release. "John the Baptist was a Real Humdinger" conveys faithful impudence, proclaiming "He would scream the truth like a drunk folk singer."
A pair of more conventional covers late in the proceedings also shine. Jean Shepard's 1966 hit "Many Happy Hangovers To You" with "Farewell Angelina" eases the album to a close.
Musicians including Tom Miller (drums) and Gary Gibula (bass and guitars) from Ringenberg's early college bands perhaps close the circle that encompasses southern Illinois, Nashville and now California.
With Nashville mainstays like Richard Bennett, Fats Kaplin, George Bradfute and Robert Bowlin augmenting, "Stand Tall" incorporates most everything Ringenberg has stood for, from Dylan, the Woodbox Gang, Jimmie Rodgers and Bristol, to punk rock, southern confusion, the natural world and religious iconology. Ringenberg continues to stand tall.
by Donald Teplyske