It’s always a treat to go to a show at your hometown club. The Radio Room is where my current band (https://www.facebook.com/babylonrocksyou/) plays and we’ve done some Zub multi-band shows there. It’s a comfortable, sort-of-dive place with good folks and a good attitude.
There’s no way around this: Jason Ringenberg is a national treasure. Back in the day we used to go see Jason and The Scorchers (this would be in the early-mid 1980’s) and they were a fearsome, rocking band. Jason, Warner Hodges, Jeff Johnson, and Perry Baggs were essentially the inventors of indie Americana rock (along with The Blasters and Los Lobos).
As the years passed and the Scorchers waned, Ringenberg pursued a solo career, which I must admit I didn’t follow closely. He went through a fallow period and came back strong as ‘Farmer Jason,’ playing children’s songs and travelling the world. I did sound for Farmer Jason at The Bohemian Cafe in Greenville and it was a blast, for kids and adults both.
Tonight at The Radio Room, Jason and his guitar played two fine sets. The first set included some really terrific storytelling, about Link Wray (as an intro to Jason’s song ‘Link Wray’) and a great story of becoming a resident artist for the U.S. National Parks in the Sierra Nevadas, that introduced ‘John Muir Stood Here.’ Ringenberg’s voice is a unique and wonderful thing, not twangy but sweet and country (he’s from Southern Illinois) with a touch of a yodeling-warble. His acoustic-electric guitar playing was great and fit the songs perfectly. He ended with a Farmer Jason song that he described as “the best song to ever come out of Nashville,” which was, of course ‘The Tractor Goes Chug Chug Chug.’
The second set was all-requests, the audience filling out ballots and Jason choosing the songs and calling out the requesters. It was great fun, and he spun through a number of great songs, including The Scorchers’ ‘White Lines,’ Merle Haggard’s ‘Rainbow Stew,’ and Lefty Frizzell's ‘Long Black Veil.’ He did a very excellent version of R.E.M.’s ‘Driver 8.’ With his gold lame shirt, boots and fancy hat, Jason was every bit the honky tonk star, and he punctuated his songs with a great pseudo-clogging/kicking dance.
He’s that rare combination of a performer that is enthralling, humble, funny, and totally in command. He ended with a great story about how much he loves The Ramones, and did a shitkicking version of ‘I Wanna Be Sedated.’
The show was a real treat, Jason did not disappoint.
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