By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Broken whiskey glass, parts one and two
Gather 'round, oh ye insurgent honky-tonkers and new-country hellions, and pay fealty to some of the men who first chalked out the pattern for the clothes you now wear so stylishly: Jason Ringenberg and the Scorchers, a bunch of Nashville boys (transplanted and otherwise) who didn't let their enthusiasm for the energy of punk get in the way of their appreciation for the form and format of real country. One of the first "roots" rock bands in the modern sense, Jason and the Scorchers turned out original numbers like "Shot Down Again" and "If You've Got the Love (I've Got the Time)," and punked up old favorites like Eddy Arnold's "I Really Don't Want to Know" and Willie Nelson's "Hello Walls," combining them into a whole that had the crackle of power lines downed on wet asphalt.
Ringenberg himself is the real thing, a kid who loves Hank Williams and the Sex Pistols equally and comes alive on stage--singing, dancing, and thrashing about as if 220 volts were shooting out of his ears. He knows that it isn't necessarily his ability to sing (potentially) cliched lines like "Pray for me, Momma, I'm a gypsy now" with a straight face that makes the Scorchers, but his ability to convince you to listen to them with a straight face. Although in the past he could sometimes be a boob--capable of shamelessly interjecting "whooooooo!" and "All right, (name of your town here)!" between every song--you never doubted his principles. A teetotaler, he refused a beer company sponsorship at a time when it could have made all the financial difference in the world to the band, and that's a stubborn sense of purpose that has served him and his mates well, bestowing upon them a small amount of fame and beaucoup credibility.
The Scorchers' forte is alternating slabs of plaintively bare hick emotion and woodchopping punk, two camps that actually come close enough to shake hands with opening act Slobberbone. A band that relies more on synthesis than contrast, the lineage of Denton's Slobberbone is still crystal clear from the rolling--and level-10 distorted--country riffing that kicks off "Sober Song," the first cut off of the band's excellent debut, Crow Pot Pie. Although Slobberbone can out-Bottle Rocket the Bottle Rockets ("Ruin Your Day"), leader and songwriter-singer-guitarist Brent Best can also turn classic honky-tonk phrases, as he does when he opens "Dunk You in the River" with a resigned "Well, it seems I pissed you off." Everything that follows is already encapsulated in that admission.
Jason and the Scorchers play the Hard Rock Cafe Thursday, October 31; Slobberbone opens.