Words of wisdom delivered through a crooked smile.
Alt-country godfather Jason Ringenberg is back with yet another hell-raising record, his latest offering ‘Rhinestoned’ shares the same thread as his previous output, it’s unapologetically unique. The songs range from thought-provoking commentary to fuzz-laden bangers all with Ringenberg’s signature vocal delivery which is free of a traditional top line in places, yet each line carries a weight that can only be gained from being a lifer in the business. Perhaps in his later years, he has set aside a certain amount of his ‘pissed off country punk’ swagger but it has been replaced with words of wisdom delivered through a crooked smile.
The most impressive display of Ringenberg’s writing comes from ‘Those Freedom Rides Weren’t Free’ which explores the 1960s Civil Rights movement, focusing on those 436 brave young souls who set out to change America for the better. Although written before the racial unrest in 2020, the issues that the song focuses on bear a frightening resemblance to more current events. The social commentary of Ringenberg’s writing is also present on ‘Nashville Without Rhinestones’. It could be very easy for a song about Nashville’s recent success to come across as bitter and mean-spirited, but the lyrics manage to navigate this topic which a great deal of class and a good dose of humour. As well as the lyrical prowess of ‘Rhinestoned’ the album also features some stellar musical moments, including Kristie Rose’s vocal performance on ‘The Storms Are on the Ocean’ which is a perfect accompaniment to Ringenberg’s own performance. The scorching guitar licks are perfectly placed throughout the whole album, the drums are sharp and tight when they need to be, which can be heard on ‘Once I Rode with Crazy Horse’. But laid back and loose on songs such as ‘You Win Again’.
Tracks such as ‘Christ the Lord Is Risen Today’ and ‘Time Warp’ may be a little hit and miss for some listeners. However, Ringenberg stays true to himself through every song, which makes for an album that is a real tour de force of this artist’s songwriting. ‘Rhinestone’ is proof that the cowpunk legend is showing no sign of slowing down – fantastically written songs, expertly arranged and all performed with Jason Ringenberg’s signature swagger.