The EMI Years

Jason And The Scorchers

EMI, 2008

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


Jason Ringenberg is from the same micropolitan area I’m from. Or, to put it in simpler terms, he’s just one county to the west. You might think this has nothing to do with this review, but it does, in a way.

See, I’m from a town that exists in liminal space. When I grew up in Ottawa, Illinois, it was neither Chicagoland or Central Illinois; it was a bit of both, stuck on Interstate 80, slightly redneck, slightly city folk, slightly farm boy, slightly industrial, slightly a river town—a bit of everything, if you will.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

That’s a pretty good metaphor for Jason And The Scorchers, too. Their declared genre is “cowpunk,” that strange liminal space where outlaw country meets punk music, a bunch of good old boys smashing their steel guitars against the rough and rowdy world of punk. The EMI Years is a documentation of their second, third, and fourth albums, released at a time when most of America was listening to synthesizers.

Needless to say, there are no synthesizers on this CD that I can hear.

Let’s get the hits (hit) out of the way. “Golden Ball And Chain” is one of the best rock songs from the 1980s, and in a truly just world it would have been a huge, ground-breaking beginning to a long and hit-filled career. The world, my friends, is not just.

Once we get past that, it’s a mixed bag. For every great song like “Crashin’ Down,” there’s a clunker like “Help There’s A Fire.” “I Really Don’t Want To Know” has some red-hot wailing harmonica, but “Broken Whiskey Glass” comes off slightly flat. The second disc is definitely better than the first; it seems like Jason And The Scorchers got their feet under them later in their EMI career, and started branching out into songs like “My Heart Still Stands With You” and “Ghost Town.” They even took on the Rolling Stones with a wicked cover of “19th Nervous Breakdown.”

The best word I can use for these godfathers of cowpunk is interesting. Their music is definitely worth checking out; their continued career after this, while intermittent, is quite good. The EMI Years is a nice place to start, albeit with some pitfalls.

Rating: B-

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