One of the Godfathers of Americana, Jason Ringenberg had planned to take a step away from recording after his last album, Stand Tall, despite having some songs leftover. However, during 2020 other songs quickly flowed out resulting in Rhinestoned. Overall, it’s his take on Nashville’s place in music, his place in Nashville and how they are changing. Two seconds into the opener, Before Love And War, and we get the Nashville feel with the tremolo arm on the guitar. He’s not lost anything vocally and he’s still poignant and provoking lyrically. This is strident Americana with lovely harmonies from daughters Addie and Camille. One thing about Jason is that he’s not conventional, not now or ever. He’s a true wordsmith, rousing, protesting and telling it how it is on The Freedom Rides Weren’t Free. Written before the racial unrest in 2020, this is a story based on those who fought against the segregated bus systems in the 1960s. The conversational Nashville Without Rhinestones reminds us that change is not always for the best and highlights him as a Country Punk, in the best sense of the word! He sings it straight with Kristi Rose on the cover of The Carter Family’s The Storms Are On The Ocean. This version is Folk and Celtic influenced and highly influenced by the Folk-Rock bands of 60s and 70s UK. Fats Kaplin appears on fiddle as Jason and Kristi serve up some excellent harmony. A surprise inclusion is the traditional Easter hymn, Christ The Lord Is Risen Today. This non-stop rocked up version has him sounding like a Southern preacher in places.
My favourite track is the brilliant I Rode With Crazy Horse and it wouldn’t surprise me if he did! Alt-Country inspiration with banjo and electric guitar in unison on the Celtic influenced runs. Has a way with words as I said previously and this has it all. Crank it up and listen to the beauty of the song, which came to him in a dream and is loosely based on an old Sioux legend of an unnamed cousin of Crazy Horse who fought alongside him at every battle until his death at Fort Robinson. My Highway Songs is more of a straight up Country song, if you ever get one from Jason. Deep, rich guitar is supplemented by strings, shuffling drums from Steve Ebe and steel guitar from Fats Kaplin. Simple and fantastic, you’ll be singing it too. A cover of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ Time Warp has Jason channelling his inner Hank Williams. It’s brilliantly played and well executed but just take the time to listen to those sublime lyrics. Talking of Hank, next up is a cover of You Win Again played in a suitably Barroom Country style and swings along just nicely, thank you very much, and the ragged harmonica just rounds it off perfectly. Stoned On Rhinestones is another straight up Country but with Jason’s particular slant on life. He heard Hank and is now stoned on rhinestones. I really did laugh out loud at this. He rocks it out on Keep That Promise with his distinctive vocal delivery confirming him as the Punk of Country. Harmonica blows up a storm on this storming Country rocker. He closes out with Window Town and it’s yet another of the many melodic songs he has picked for us here. He mellows his voice accordingly and musically has again shown he has the chops and the licks. Even within a genre, Ringenberg has shown he can cover all the sub genres and he has gentle Country Rock at the heart of this with Kaplin’s pedal steel ringing out as a rallying cry for the Nashville that Jason has seen come and go.