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Music Review: Jason & the Scorchers – Halcyon Times

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Jason & the Scorchers don't have to look back; they've been the genuine article since the early 1980's, and have the Americana Music Association's Lifetime Achievement Award to prove it. Opening with a half-crazed two-step about a "moonshine guy in a six-pack world," their new disc – their first of new material since 1996, hard to believe as that may be – barrels through the glorious clichés of country-rock like they weren't clichés at all.

Backed by a crack new rhythm section, founding Scorchers Jason Ringenberg and Warner E. Hodges pile layer upon layer of American dreams and nightmares. The wonderful "Beat on the Mountain" speaks of striking miners: "I beat on the mountain/but the mountain don't say a thing." "Mona Lee" hollers like an army of Chuck Berrys, and the band's sense of humor shines in "Fear Not Gear Rot" with its exaggerated freight-train twang and playful lyrics. "Mother of Greed" tangily evokes the immigrant experience and its resonance in later generations.

A spirit of fun and celebration runs through the record despite the presence of such serious themes, even in the epic "Land of the Free" with its portentous beat and clanging guitars and Vietnam War tale. Propped up by killer guitar licks, it's a mini-symphony of rock and roll goodness.

The atmospheric "Twang Town Blues" evokes busted dreams and Music City viciousness, while "Days of Wine and Roses" feels a little like countrified Springsteen meets the Byrds, with a steely midtempo beat and hard-pulled guitar strings. In the hard-driving southern rock number "Better Than This" a superb hook tops off a ropy chromatic guitar riff; if it had come out in the late 1970's the song would be a classic rock hit today. "It gets good but it don't get better than this." So true.

Dan Baird provides guest vocals on the stripped-down country number "When Did It Get So Easy (To Lie to Me)." Hard to say just how or when it got that way – where the magic comes from, that is – but Jason & the Scorchers make everything sound easy on this scorcher of a disc, even making a good go of youthfully snotty country-punk in the final track.

Here's a video of the band performing "Mona Lee" live.

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About Jon Sobel

Jon Sobel is an Executive Editor of Blogcritics as well as lead editor of the Culture & Society section. As a writer he contributes most often to Culture, where he reviews NYC theater; he also covers interesting music releases. He writes the blog Park Odyssey, for which he is visiting and blogging every park in New York City—over a thousand of them. Through Oren Hope Marketing and Copywriting you can hire him to write or edit whatever marketing or journalistic materials your heart desires. By night he's a working musician: lead singer, songwriter, and bass player for Whisperado, a member of other bands as well, and a sideman.
  • http://marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    wow, i had no idea that they were doing anything again. i totally have to get this one.

    thanks, jon!

  • http://jonsobel.com/ Jon Sobel

    Mark, it doesn’t look like it’s available on Amazon yet except as an import. But the release date I saw listed was Feb. so I expect it’ll be up soon.

  • DevanG

    Mr. Sobel, since you appreciate talent from the past, you owe it to yourself to check out founding member of Y & T “The Tunesmith’s Apprentice” I know this cd IS available on amazon and itunes and cdbaby.

  • http://www.soundclick.com/bands/default.cfm?bandID=463156 JC Mosquito

    I’m sooooooooo happy to hear about this!!!!

    If there was any justice in the world, The Scorchers would go to Cleveland, play a couple of sets, and cause the RnRHOFame to spontaneously combust.

    Err…… doesn’t Warner Hodges play for Dan Baird in Homemade Sin now?

  • http://jonsobel.com/ Jon Sobel

    Indeed he does.

  • Mike

    Copies signed by Jason and Warner are available on the Scorchers website

  • http://www.soundclick.com/bands/default.cfm?bandID=463156 JC Mosquito

    Great little video clip. Warner can still run circles around most anyone else with a Telecaster. So – since he’s doing double duty, playing with Dan Baird as well, who gets priority on his time?

  • Paul

    They just make the schedules work. Good for fans as chance to see WEH more often

  • Mark C

    And according to the great man himself, there is another little project going on too. I guess he must really be enjoying his playing again. And to use his own words “that’s a good thang’