Jason & the Scorchers

Wildfires and Misfires: Two Decades of Outtakes and Rarities

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Subtitled Two Decades of Outtakes and Rarities, this generous 19-track, 72-minute disc assembles odds and sods from cowpunk's hardest-rocking gang. Although they may be called leftovers, these tunes slice as hard and sharp as what was originally released on their studio albums from 1983-1998 (OK, so it's not quite 20 years), and in some cases better. From an unplugged radio performance of Jimmie Rodgers' "Last Blue Yodel" to a very plugged-in version of Johnny Burnette's "Tear It Up" with guest guitarist Link Wray tearin' it up at the Roskilde Festival in 1985 that must be heard to be believed, Jason Ringenberg and the band obviously find their niche on-stage. That's not to say that the studio outtakes aren't worthwhile too, but these C&W and Stones-loving Southerners let loose in concert like few others. Between Jason Ringenberg's nasal twang and Warner Hodges' limber guitar, their sound seesaws between the heartfelt hillbilly of "The Slow Train Never Ends" -- a duet with Hodges' mom -- and their fire-spittin' cover of Dylan's "Absolutely Sweet Marie." That song, which got them signed, leads off the album in a 1983 demo that pounds with raw power. From a flaming version of Tony Joe White's "Polk Salad Annie," the only track here sung by Hodges, to the Drivin' N' Cryin' Southern metal swagger of "Too Much Too Young" and the tough ballad "Window Town" (one of their best tracks, previously only available as a B-side to a British EP), this is prime stuff that's not just meant for existing fans who own all the band's material. With their music confusingly scattered over three, now four labels, it's time for a comprehensive collection of Jason & the Scorchers' best work. Until listeners get one, this ragtag anthology will work just fine.

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