It’s not often a punk from a hog farm in Southern Illinois gets a chance to escape and raise rock hell with a band like The Scorchers, but Jason Ringenberg believed he could “kick American roots music into the modern age!” He and the band did just that. Now, over 40 years later Ringenberg has returned to his Illinois roots to record Stand Tall.
The album opener and title track delivers a pastiche of Sergio Leone and Ennio Morricone, illustrating just how much ground Ringenberg can cover. Which should come as no surprise since the this collection covers everything from John the Baptist to John Muir, not to mention stops with the Ramones and California’s huge Sequoia trees.
‘God Bless The Ramones’ recounts a 1982 tour where the Scorchers served as openers for the band. Tearing into song Jason clearly delineates what made da brudders so special, “God bless the Ramones, they never sold their souls to US corporate radio and all that it controls.”
The Southern conscript of ‘I’m Walking Home’ is initially taken away on a train to battle in the Civil War, yet hating both sides three years later at the war’s ends up going home on foot. Flash forward a little more than a hundred years and you have a similar song of disillusionment in ‘Almost Enough’, where the aftermath of the last three or four American wars have left the country in tatters with old soldiers saluting a memory of a country that may have never really existed.
Serving as an Artist in Residence at Sequoia National Park help Ringenberg regain some of his old punk ethos thanks to the history lesson of ‘John Muir Stood Here’, with his estimation of what Muir must have thought, “and I’ll save the sequoias, gonna make the politicians fear!”
While Stand Tall offers a modern take on the Scorchers style of punk, the roots go back even farther with college buddies Tom Miller and Gary Gibula serving as the rhythm section. At the same time the music incorporates a wealth of influences gained over the years from Celtic flutes, to country fiddles.
The music business has changed since the early days of Jason and the Scorchers, but Ringenberg is showing that he can change with the times, while still holding on to the ideals and bile that blasted them into the spotlight back in 1982. Ringenberg has changed with the times and he can Stand Tall because of it.