Glasgow Americana Festival - Jason Ringenberg
Rachel Devine uncovers the peculiar triple life of Jason Ringenberg, one of the stars of this year’s Glasgow Americana Festival
If there was ever a singer who fits the dewy-eyed, British notion of Americana as thinking man’s country music, it would be Jason Ringenberg. With the social conscience of Steve Earle, the cheekbones of (a young) Johnny Cash, the punk aesthetic of Joey Ramone and a voice that’s pure honky tonk, he is the embodiment of the nu-country man. And as his alter ego, Farmer Jason, he’s even down with the kids.
Ringenberg was in Glasgow earlier this month with his long-time band the Scorchers to promote a new ‘best of’ album, Best Tracks and Side Tracks 1979-2007, a compilation of his first 30 years in the business. He returns for the Glasgow Americana Festival, but it could be some time before he tours again for grown ups. After three decades of spit and sawdust he has made the decision to direct all his energies, for the time being, into his country-for-kids persona Farmer Jason. In what seems like perfect timing, the American Music Association will present Jason and the Scorchers with a lifetime achievement award later in the year.
‘I’ve put a lot of energy into my solo singer-songwriter career in the last ten years, and now with the Farmer Jason stuff I’m entering a new phase of my life,’ he says. ‘It was time to make a statement about what I’ve done to date.’
The pre-teen market may seem an odd choice for a singer who has built a career on tales of death and woe, and influenced the likes of Ryan Adams, Richmond Fontaine and Wilco, but having grown up on a hog farm in Illinois, Ringenberg is emminently qualified to school children in the ways of the working country.
‘Farmer Jason was never meant to be the central part of my career,’ he admits. ‘I made a character for my three little girls. I never expected it to take off.’
But take off it has and Ringenberg is struggling to cope with the demand to hear him sing ‘Whoa There Pony’ and ‘I’m Just an Old Cow’. There’s plenty of the Jason Ringenberg of old in the songs for younger ears.
Meanwhile, Best Tracks and Side Tracks is a ‘farewell for now’. After 30 years there was a lot of material to wade through.
‘I don’t particularly like listening to myself,’ he says. ‘It was a very tedious process, so I just ended up asking some friends what they would do. I listened to outside voices, as opposed to my inner voice.’
Ringenberg joins Kinky Friedman, The Wailin’ Jennys, Stevie Jackson from Belle and Sebastian and Glasgow alt.country outfit Doghouse Roses on the bill for the second and extended Glasgow Americana Festival next month. The brainchild of Kevin Morris, who runs Americana club Fallen Angels, it’s testament to the growing popularity of alt.country and Americana on the west coast of Scotland.
‘I think the Festival has a widespread appeal not just for those music lovers who are already aware of the artistes but for others, too,’ says Morris. ‘I have bought tickets in the past for shows by Jason Ringenberg and The Wailin’ Jennys so, as a fan, I’m really pleased they are coming to Glasgow for the Festival.’
Glasgow Americana Festival, various venues, Sat 24–31 May, view listings.
Jason Ringenberg plays Blackfriars, Glasgow, Tue 27 May.