Farmer Jason and Buddies – Nature Jams

January 01, 1970



Jason is the alter-ego…er, the “identical twin brother” of Jason
& the Scorchers frontman Jason Ringeberg. Originally conceived as a musical
side project Jason came up with for his daughters, the singer’s natural
likeability and the ease at which he connected with a youthful audience
resulted in modest commercial success for 2003’s A Day At The Farm with Farmer Jason and 2006’s Rockin’ In The Forest with Farmer Jason.


A little
more than five years later, after a red-hot Jason & the Scorchers album (Halcyon Days) and accompanying world tour,
Jason is back down on the farm with Nature
. The first release on Universal’s new kid-oriented MyKazoo Music label,
Nature Jams is a mixed bag that
nonetheless offers up some fine music – not too hard to do with a band that
includes some of Nashville’s
best, from multi-instrumental talent George Bradfute to Scorchers’ bandmate
Warner Hodges and many others. Nature
is also glutted with guest performers, ranging from singers like Suzy
Bogguss, Ruthie Foster, and Iris Dement to bands like Ireland’s Saw Doctors or
bona fide legends like Cajun great Terrance Simien.       


When it’s
good, Nature Jams is very good, and
some of the guest pairings work better than others. “Meadowlark In Central
Park,” with country star Bogguss, is a thing of sheer beauty. A lyrical
and melodic mid-tempo tune with just a hint of twang and an overall performance
that puts the efforts of many indie-rock singer/songwriter types to shame, the
song features the gorgeous weeping violin of Nashville’s Fats Kaplin and the
melancholy cello of producer Bradfute.


Any day
that Webb Wilder steps up to the microphone is a good day, and Wilder’s enormous
charisma and resonating baritone vocals liven up both the seemingly
stream-of-consciousness, spoken word “Buffalo or Bison?” as well as
“Dison The Bison,” a muscular rocker that includes Hodges on guitar and
drummer Steve Gorman from the Black Crowes. Jason & the Scorchers show up
to jam on “The Glacier,” a tuff-as-nails romp with a rockabilly
heart, a rollicking Western vibe, gang vocals, and one of the meanest Hodges
solos that the talented guitarist has ever ripped and roared.


sets up an awkward pairing of Farmer Jason and the hell-raising Hank III, who
tones down the outrageousness and amps up the cornpone accent; still, somehow,
the duet works in spite of Hank’s over-the-top emoting, mostly because of the
song’s loping, carefree rhythm and the addition of a bit of tasty mandolin
courtesy of Tommy Ramone (yes, of those Ramones!). Jason is joined by bass
legend Victor Wooten (Bela Fleck & the Flecktones) and his kids for the
soulful, slightly funky “No Place Like The Woods.” Above a fat
bass-and-keyboards groove, Wooten delivers a cool, throwback vocal turn that
reminds of 1950s-era jazz.


Snider reprises his “moose trilogy” from Rockin’ In The Forest for “The Moose Lives Where?,”
another unbridled rocker that includes vocals from Jason, Snider, and Norwegian
author Jo Nesbo. Nature Jams also
includes a bonus DVD with music videos for four of the album’s songs: “Dison
The Bison” with Webb Wilder, “Take A Hike,”
“Spelunker,” and “Can You Canoe,” with banjo maestro Alison
Brown. Much of Nature Jams seems
overly forced, however, with Jason’s introductions to every song too often
coming across as something akin to Farmer
Jason’s Neighborhood
. Too many of the songs here seem a little more
dumbed-down than on the previous albums, which managed to mix kid-friendly
wordplay with lyrics that nodded slyly at the parents in the audience.


There is
too much reliance on Jason’s “buddies” on Nature Jams as well, with every song offering a guest cameo, and
several – Mike Mills of R.E.M. and Tom Petersson of Cheap Trick come to mind –
just fall flat. Since almost all the guest spots were overdubbed rather than
performed live in the studio with Jason and the band, they often seem oddly
disconnected. The entire premise tends to rob Jason of his natural charisma and
personality when compared to the first two LPs, which had plenty of guest stars,
sure, but they were downplayed in favor of the material.      


again, the Reverend is a bit older than Farmer Jason’s target audience of
restless rug-burners in the single-digits, agewise. Nature Jams will do a fine job of keeping your tot happy and
hopping around gleefully while you parents can rock along with your kids to
some truly inspired music-making.


DOWNLOAD: “Meadowlark In Central
Park,” “Dison The Bison,” “The Glacier”


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