Jason Ringenberg : Empire Builders

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This country is in the midst of a sea change. In a few scant months a Presidential Election will take place and will quite possibly play a part in defining this generation. Never have I seen so many celebrities, especially musicians, take part in voicing their own political opinions. We expect as much from Bono, Michael Stipe, and Eddie Vedder, but we even had some rifts in the world of country music. Heck, the Dixie Chicks / Toby Keith debacle became an hour long special on CMT! Punk has also gotten into the act with the Rock Against Bush series of albums. Well, what happens when country and punk collide? You get Jason Ringenberg, that’s what!

Originally part of the alt-country / cow-punk pioneers Jason & the Scorchers, Jason Ringenberg has been bringing his unique musical style to the people for over twenty years. After going solo and touring Europe and Australia, he saw many things which became the impetus for Empire Builders. He was berated by foreigners on American foreign policy, pigeonholed and stereotyped by his Southern accent, and driven to claim he was Canadian. What was an Illinois born, Nashville bred, punk rock influenced guy to do? He’d write a kick ass, shit-eating grin wearing, hard hitting, boot-stomping, indicting and also celebratory album about his home country, that’s what!

Ringenberg bookends the album with “American Question” and “American Reprieve.” The first is a Greg Garing / Bill Monroe type of Nashville joint with muted, driving guitar and an accent on the accent, while the second an almost spoken word / country Gil Scott-Heron number. Both mirror each other in its lyrics with slight variance. Both tell of his guilt over America’s warlike relations with the world:

From “American Question”:
Yes we can bomb most any land
Then send their kids to Disneyland
Give them a Big Mac and a prayer
Then forget that they are there

From “American Reprieve”:
Yes we can bomb most any land
On CNN with marching bands
Pour ourselves an ice cold Coke
Make a war and tell a joke

Other songs contain observations on seeing a Rebel flag in Germany to which Jason sings, I wish I’d never seen that flag in central Germany, Hell I don’t even want to see that flag in Tennessee. He covers Merle Haggard and his anti-war song “Rainbow Stew,” sings about the Tuskegee Airmen, Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce Native Americans, SUV’s, Wal-Mart, and Imperialism. What kind of Nashville artist would create such left-wing material? Jason Ringenberg, that’s who!

I applaud anyone who goes against stereotype and sticks to their convictions. I applauded the Dixie Chicks and I now applaud Jason Ringenberg. He’s a true political folk singer in the body of a country star. He’s a punk in the guise of a cowboy, a protester in the costume of an entertainer. What kind of album could be all of these things at once? Empire Builders, that’s what!

Similar Albums:
Greg Garing- Greg Garing
Patrick Park- Loneliness Knows My Name
The Mendoza Line- Fortune

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