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Country-punk Christian

Music | Hard rockers seek to please their mother--and their Father

Issue: "The '96 Election," Nov. 16, 1996

"That was a great piece," Jason Ringenberg told WORLD recently, in reference to the positive review of his band that ran in our April 22, 1995, issue. "You guys are The Way, right?" No, WORLD. The Way is published by a cult.

"WORLD. Cool. It was a wonderful piece to send to my mom."

Mr. Ringenberg laughs. Not long ago, after all, nothing would've seemed less in keeping with the wild, country-punk image of his band--Jason and the Scorchers--than for its leader to worry about pleasing his mother.

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By the time Jason and the Scorchers released 1995's A Blazing Grace, however, times had changed. Not only were the years during which the Scorchers had ruled the country-punk roost long gone, but more important, Mr. Ringenberg--his marriage and career in pieces--had just returned to the Catholic faith of his youth with all the fervor of a Southern Baptist.

A year-and-a-half later, he and the Scorchers are back with a new, crisply recorded, hard-southern-rocking album. And although nothing on Clear Impetuous Morning testifies to Mr. Ringenberg's new inspiration as blatantly as A Blazing Grace songs like "Hell's Gates" and "Somewhere Within," his faith does define several of the new album's strongest songs: "Victory Road," for instance ( in which he sings, "I've been looking for a miracle. / Tell me, brother, have you seen one? / I'm so tired of being cynical"), and "Kick Me Down."

"In 'Kick Me Down' I was trying to paint a picture, without being obvious, of a guy in prison," Mr. Ringenberg explained, "maybe a political prisoner or St. Paul in a cell, a person who is just not going to give in to the pressures around him."

In a sense, the "prisoner" represents Mr. Ringenberg himself, who humbly describes himself as "more of a St. Peter Christian than a St. Paul Christian"--which is to say his faith has not always been steadfast. But he says that a regular devotional routine helps him endure the rigors of life in a rock-and-roll tour van.

"On the road, going to church is very difficult. Overnight, 500-mile drives--you just never know. But every night before I go to bed and every morning, I read the Bible and pray." He isn't alone. Perry Baggs, the Scorchers' drummer and the co-composer of "Victory Road," has also recently undergone a spiritual rebirth.

"Perry had a born-again experience right before we went into the studio, so he was really on fire when he hit those drum tracks," Mr. Ringenberg laughed. "He even got baptized at the church he used to go to when he was a child. He wears a cross now, and not just as a fashion statement. He wears it for a Christian reason."

According to Mr. Ringenberg, however, he and his band have no plans to pursue the family-bookstore crowd at the expense of their core, rock-and-roll audience, the majority of whom he describes as "male rednecks."

"Jason and the Scorchers is a rock-and-roll band, and I'm just part of it. I bring to it what I can, but I'm not really in people's faces with [my beliefs] all the time. I'm a little more subtle. We're not a 'Christian' band, so people don't come to the party expecting that out of us."

Of course, rock-and-roll wouldn't be rock-and-roll without the unexpected. In other words, maybe the fact that the mini-revival taking place among the Scorchers has coincided with their professional rebirth is no coincidence at all.

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