Jason Ringenberg Empire Builders

Jason Ringenberg is best known as a genuine pioneer of cow-punk. As front-man for the well-named Scorchers, he came up with a "Hank Williams doing speed with the Pistols” sonic hybrid that was righteous, reckless and revolutionary. He may have matured and mellowed of late (he put out a children's record recently), but he remains an artist worthy of attention. Coming up with a record that's part concept album on the theme of American imperialism may surprise Scorchers fans, but Ringenberg pulls it off in an honest and thought-provoking manner. Spying a Confederate flag while touring in Europe inspired both disgust and the song "Rebel Flag In Germany." An album highlight, it features Jason recalling, "I search for a disguise, I say 'I am Canadian' with averted eyes." These are the songs of a proud American disgusted with what his country is now doing. He blasts "misguided patriots" and "new-fashioned imperialists," noting in album closer "American Reprieve" that "we can bomb most any land, on CNN with marching bands." More positive sentiments prevail in tributes to his dad ("Half The Man"), a lover ("She Hung The Moon") and a rock legend ("Link Wray"). The latter's lines, "you'll never see him on MTV, but he rocks more than any band you'll see," also apply to their writer. Throughout, Ringenberg's big-hearted voice is in fine form and he is ably abetted by such Nashville cats as Fats Kaplin and George Bradfute. This is a courageous and convincing effort. (Yep Roc)