Last of the Neon Cowboys

Jason Ringenberg keeps one foot in the honky tonk, with or without the Scorchers

"I toyed around with some pretentious-sounding record-biz names," Ringenberg says with a laugh. "But that didn't seem to make sense, because this was just me having fun and hoping to make a little money and keep making music. Chickens are big in our family--we have chickens for pets and for eggs, my wife loves chickens, and we bought a farm that used to be a chicken farm. I thought that was cool; then I thought, 'What can I do to make this so there's a little twist to it?' So I did that double entendre with Courageous Chicken. It kind of describes how I feel about music sometimes."

Neither the label nor the album is an isolated occurrence for Ringenberg, who plans to release another solo acoustic album on Courageous Chicken and is looking into the possibility of putting out a legitimate version of Jason & the Scorchers' legendary bootleg Rock On Germany on the label as well. Less likely, however, is a new Scorchers album, which, simply from the logistical standpoint of studio time, production values, and promotion and distribution assistance, will probably wind up on a larger, more established label.

For now, Ringenberg has his hands full with A Pocketful of Soul. One interesting aspect of the album is the material that Ringenberg didn't write alone. "The Last of the Neon Cowboys," a song he co-wrote with Kevin Welch (one of Nashville's best-kept songwriting secrets), was a leftover from his first solo album, and he covers Johnny Horton's "Whispering Pines" and Guadalcanal Diary's jangle-pop ode "Trail of Tears."

Who likes referring to himself in the third person? Jason Ringenberg, that’s who: “I started realizing that this was something beyond just an indulgent thing for Jason to do.”
Who likes referring to himself in the third person? Jason Ringenberg, that’s who: “I started realizing that this was something beyond just an indulgent thing for Jason to do.”

Going from Johnny Horton to Murray Attaway is a genre stretch no matter how you look at it, but Ringenberg found the common thread.

"I wanted to show the two sides of my roots heritage," he explains. "One going back to a person like Johnny Horton, and the other one to go back to fellow figures from the early '80s roots explosion in America. I thought that was a nice range to include someone from both sides, and those songs have always meant a heck of a lot to me."

It's not surprising that Ringenberg's love of songcraft shows up in his choice of covers as naturally as it does in his own work. Nor is it surprising that he has once again been lionized by the press, recently earning a coveted spot on the Associated Press' list of the Top 10 Country Records of 2000. After close to two decades of his papering his walls with similar accolades, one can only hope that A Pocketful of Soulwill finally mark the moment that a substantial number of record buyers put Ringenberg's name on their want lists.

"I'm real happy with the way the live thing's going, especially after coming off Jason & the Scorchers," he says. "When I looked at doing this, that was the scariest part of it. How do I walk out on stage after being with the band for 20 years? People say we're the best live band in the world. Not a lot, but some. Enough to make me scared. I was terrified [of playing solo]. The first show was in Denmark, and it was the first time in 15 years that I was nervous, really nervous. I just went with the flow, and to this day I just walk on stage, and what happens happens."

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