Lost & Found is an energetic record that gives a glimpse into the machinations of ‘80s country.
With hundreds of band names rolling around in your head, identifying potential gems in the bargain bin can be a hard ask. Do you remember this one being mentioned fondly, or is this band your friend’s worst find? I first heard mention of Jason & the Scorchers from a punk-loving friend, and she described them as fantastic country punk. The mix confused me. It apparently confused some contemporary fans in the ‘80s too because the band never fully took off, hence their debut album Lost & Found being a bargain. While they’re still going – Jason & the Scorchers just headlined the Outlaw Country cruise (a gig is a gig) – they seem to be remembered largely as a novelty.
Roots rock is essentially alternative country these days, but Jason & the Scorchers appear to have been at the forefront of melding country into new styles. Lead singer and the band’s namesake Jason Ringenberg clearly loves country; you can hear it in his gravelly roots vocals. But Ringenberg has wild tendencies. Combined with guitarist Warner Hodges’ hard rock and punk leanings, it makes for a genre blend that’s high energy and in your face. Opener “Last Time Around” and “Blanket of Sorrow” are excellent examples of just how loose the Scorchers were. Hodges fuels the former with epic guitar licks, and the latter shows some interesting choices, with the addition of rootsy fiddle.
“White Lies” and “If Money Talks” feature a chugging rock guitar paired with angst-ridden lyrics from Ringenberg on the former (“Take these chains and set me free/ Release me from this misery”). Just listening to it conjures images of what Ringenberg – in his cowboy hat and suit jacket – must have looked like strutting around on stage. “Cowpunk” seems more than apt. And that’s before you even watch the music video. Ringenberg vamps it up like Mick Jagger with his country-punk swagger. The one surprise is his bedazzled jacket.
When it comes to tracks like “I Really Don’t Want to Know,” the Scorchers go hard with the country influences. Hodges’ rock guitar makes it a clear precursor to the likes of Brad Paisley and modern country rock and alt country. Even the country punks, though, are able to cool things down, as on the classic slow country ballads “Still Tied,” complete with slide guitar, and “Far Behind,” again featuring a lonesome fiddle.
But what’s clear on this record is that not only do Jason & the Scorchers love their country roots but they love playing with the genre stereotypes. “Broken Whiskey Glass” is a perfect title for a woe-is-me lost love country ballad, and that’s exactly what it is – with a twist. Ringenberg moons, “Someday you’ll find an epitaph that reads/ ‘Here lies Jason: strangled by a love’” before the melancholy song erupts into a rollicking jam with bouncing keys and rocking licks that unequivocally announce that Jason will move on just fine.
While Jason & the Scorchers’ particular brand of country is more of a niche sound, Lost & Found is an energetic record that gives a glimpse into the machinations of ‘80s country. If you’re curious to see Ringenberg’s swaggering delivery today, the band is still touring—and not limited to cruise ships,