Jason and the Scorchers never got their due the first time 'round, being inexplicably lumped in with the new-wave-roots movement that flourished and faded within the time it takes to say Phantom, Rocker, and Slim. But there was genius within that country-punk, which breathed more fire than Del Fuegos, tamed more hellhounds than Rank and File, and deflowered more virgins than Country Dick's Beat Farmers. Theirs was a brand of Reckless Country Soul (as their 1981 four-song debut was called), drunk straight from the bottle that passed between Gram Parsons' and Hank Williams' parched lips.
If there's one band left that can make the idea of "country-rock" seem as redundant as "big-large," it's Jason Ringenberg and the boys. Ringenberg never attempted to filter out and define the separate but similar elements; his is a music abundant with the universal themes of sin and salvation, fightin' and drinkin', screwin' and drivin'--usually all at once--that lie at the core of all American folk music (which, as they say, is just music for folks). When he tried to go straight country in 1992, Ringenberg failed because he discovered he couldn't separate the wild-eyed recklessness of rock and roll from the cynical romance of country. The truths are best heard at loud volume.
The Scorchers' newest, A Blazing Grace, one-ups the old stuff right down to the John Denver cover where the country road dead-ends into a jukejoint that doubles as a whorehouse. If nothing else, Jason and the Scorchers remember that rock and roll isn't the trip, but the intoxicating elixir you drink on the way there.
Jason and the Scorchers perform April 23 at the Venice Beach Club.