Much more than just an earnest hillbilly twanger, Ringenberg is a songwriter of...
Chris White 2008
As a rule, not too many sons of Illinois pig farmers end up becoming global superstars. Nearing 50, Jason Ringenberg can hardly be placed in this category either, but this excellent retrospective of the veteran roots musician's near 30 year career reveals this particular porcine pastoralist's progeny as seriously underrated fare and an important influence upon many of today's alt-country artists, from Uncle Tupelo to Ryan Adams and Richmond Fontaine.
Much more than just an earnest hillbilly twanger, Ringenberg is a songwriter of genuine range and lyrical bite. Best Tracks and Side Tracks demonstrates the full spectrum of his gifts, from the 80s 'cow punk'of his band Jason and the Scorchers to the quirky children's music of his recent 'Farmer Jason' persona.
Ringenberg's at his best though when he's simply being himself. So far this decade he's released three solo albums, and the standout tracks from these are the undoubted highlights of the first disc of this collection. Melodic, musically rich and aching with passion for the land of his childhood, these songs are on a par with anything the Americana genre has produced, showcasing a performer imbued with the spirit of Woody Guthrie and the accessibility of Neil Young in his country-rock pomp.
Eddie Rode The Orphan Train and The Price Of Progress eloquently and movingly evoke the struggles of ordinary Mid West folk, while For Addie Rose is sweet paean to his Ringenberg's young daughter and Bible And A Gun, featuring Steve Earle, is an epic murder ballad of real power.
The second disc is a ramshackle ragbag of outtakes and oddities which, while considerably less essential than the first, still brings a smile with Lovely Christmas's festive girl-boy verbal jousting and the plain silly Moose On The Loose. It's as if Ringenberg now feels he can lose his inhibitions without fear of tarnishing his legacy, which Best Tracks And Side Tracks confirms to be a mighty one indeed. Highly recommended.