Record Review - 1 September 16 2004

Long before the rise of "alternative" country-rock posers like Ryan Adams, rebel yelp hell-raiser Jason Ringenberg led Jason & the Scorchers, a raucous Nashville band that burned a path through early '80s college rock. The band blended hard rock and hard country into a unique hybrid that pleased fans here and abroad.

Twenty-plus years later, Ringenberg is once again working both sides of the fence as he tours to support two very different albums. On Empire Builders, a logical extension of his All Over Creation album from 2002, Ringenberg continues his examination of domestic and international politics. Written almost entirely while on tour overseas, the collection is dedicated to our "country in despair," filled with "misguided patriots."

As he wrestles with the guilt of being an "Ameri-can," he paints a picture of himself as a man riddled with guilt, pondering government policies, rebel flags and evil imperialism in general. Surrounded by some of Nashville's finest talents, including members of Swan Dive and Eddie Angel from Los Straightjackets, Ringenberg's ruminations linger long after the mostly satisfying album ends. Conservatives will loathe this album, while liberals will definitely embrace it, both perpetuating the divided empire he questions.

A Day at the Farm with Farmer Jason offers some unintentional laughs for adults as Ringenberg sings of "A Guitar Pickin' Chicken" and chugging tractors in a collection of well-intended — if slightly demented, and yes, at times, creepy — tunes for kids. At their best, they simultaneously amuse and bewilder.

-- Lee Valentine Smith

Jason Ringenberg performs a special matinee show for children at 2 p.m. for $5, and a $10 show for the grown-ups at 8:30 p.m. Both shows Sat., Sept. 18. Red Light Cafe, 553 Amsterdam Ave. 404-874-7828. www.redlightcafe.com.