BY FRED MILLS
First the disclosure: author Gordon is a contributor to BLURT, which makes me his editor. So sue me. Next the description: an illustration-crammed 92-page tome in which former Nashville renegade resident Gordon offers up a mash note to one of his all-time fave combos—that part, I’m sure of, having waxed enthusiastically with the Rev about the band on a number of occasions!—via in-depth reviews of all the Scorchers releases, plus members’ solo and side projects, and a selection of his previously published essays and interviews.
And lastly, the opinion: fuck yeah, you need this, not only ‘cos you’re a Scorchers fan like me (why else are you reading this ding-dong review?!?), but also owing to the fact that you are DAMN PROUD of the Nashville rock ‘n’ roll scene finally, belatedly, happily slouching out of the underground in recent years, nevermind all those lemming-like Lady Antebellum wannabes and their money-hungry enablers over at Music Row… and you know, deep down in your little ol’ Jack White-enamoured heart, that none of it would’ve been possible had it not been for the pioneering efforts of Jason Ringenberg, Warner Hodges, Perry Baggs and Jeff Johnson (plus Johnson’s subsequent replacements Andy York and Ken Fox).
It’s a theme that Gordon explored previously, on last year’s doorstop of an encyclopedia The Other Side Of Nashville. That book gave Jason & the Scorchers plenty of props, and justifiably so; here, the lens is focused intensely on the group’s career arc and recorded output. Among the highlights is a 2007 interview with Ringenberg, who talks about the ups and downs of the Scorchers as well as his none-too-shabby solo career (which includes his kids-rock alter-ego Farmer Jason); a piece on Jack Emerson, who in the early ‘80s formed the label Praxis in order to release records by the Scorchers, later going on to found E Squared Records with Steve Earle; and of course journalistic snapshots of the band in its early days, back when the term “country rock” confused as many people as did “cowpunk” and having the word “Nashville” as part of your band name (the band was originally called “Jason & the Nashville Scorchers”) probably kept you from getting booked into a lot of otherwise potentially simpatico underground rock clubs. All you kids out there reading this, you don’t know how good you got it these days; the indie scene 30 years ago was a vastly different musical landscape.
A true story: around the time of 1985’s incendiary Lost & Found LP, which was their so-called “breakthrough” album for EMI via hit single “White Lies,” the Scorchers appeared at a Charlotte, NC, meat market venue that had occasionally been branching out from its usual deejay fare and was testing the live waters via some up-and-coming (read: inexpensive) alternative acts (Modern English was another one, go figure). After the show yours truly casually headed to the backstage area, only to be summarily blocked by a stereotypical musclebound meathead; this may have been s.o.p. for the type of 5-star clubs said meat market clearly patterned itself after, but to someone like myself who was weaned on the egalitarian access and camaraderie of punk and college rock clubs, the treatment seemed a tad bit, er, misplaced. I mean, all I wanted to do was go back and tell the band what a kickass concert it had been.
Fuming, I stood there for several minutes while meathead grinned at me, arms folded across his tight black teeshirt. Then I spotted drummer Baggs walking past the open doorway, so I called out to him. When he wandered over to see who it was, he spied the copy of their debut 7” for indie label Praxis, the Reckless Country Soul EP, that I was clutching; he got a huge grin on his face and summarily ushered me through the door and into the inner sanctum. (Meathead just glowered.) Upon entering the dressing room area, Baggs announced to the band, “Hey guys, he’s got a copy of our first record with him!” I secured autographs from all four members, then casually suggested we spark up some of that primo Colombo I had tucked into my back pocket. Suddenly I was the Scorchers’ new best friend, and by the time the club’s goons decided it was finally time for the band to collect their dough and hit the road, we’d swapped enough rock ‘n’ roll war stories to fill a book.
Maybe I will fill a book some day. But meanwhile, you, dear readers, have Rev. Keith’s fine, fine volume here to spend an afternoon or ten with.It’s a feast for the eyes as well, thanks to the graphic design smarts of photographer Paul Needham who has worked closely with the band in the past on their website and albums.
Just make sure you also have some hard-twanging Scorchers raveups bouncing on the stereo, okay?