[8 December 2003]
Jason Ringenberg is better known as the hell-raising frontman for country-rock band Jason and the Scorchers. The touring and gigs has resulted in him being described as “the rockinest folk singer that ever lived!” But after years of the rigorous lifestyle, and with three little Ringenbergs on the farm, the singer decided to change gears somewhat. Well, quite a heck of a lot actually. The new album seems to have been researched, produced, and given the thumbs up from Ringenberg’s three young daughters: Kelsey Beth, Camille Grace, and Addie Rose. So, the first children’s album from this musician is indeed a departure.
Starting off the near dozen tunes is “Get Up Up Up!” a hoedown containing fiddles, banjo, and guitars as Ringenberg comfortably adjusts his appeal to those who years ago were on a totally different bottle than fans of his other band. “The day is bright, we’re feeling fine, let’s go and run to the horizon”, he sings as a rooster can be heard and also children singing along, known in the liner notes as the “Little Farmers Chorus”. And it seems to be just the right amount of time, clocking in at a minute and a half. The second tune is basically an introduction to the album, with Ringenberg talking about the daily chores on the farm—feeding the animals and riding the tractor. This moves into the actual track, the well-known “A Guitar Pickin’ Chicken’”. The pickin’ itself is pretty good and brings an early Bo Diddley to mind in spots. It also is the sort of tune that parents can pick up on, particularly the guitar solos.
Most of the songs start with brief spoken introductions about the farm and what goes into running a good farm and keeping the animals happy. “If you have a pony though kids, you need to take good care of it”, Ringenberg, er, Farmer Jason says before “Whoa There Pony!”, a toe-tapper that has some of Ringenberg’s famous wail and some Celtic-esque whistles. It’s probably the best tune on the album, as Ringenberg fully fleshes it out. Trying to keep a thread in the story, he decides that the better mode of transportation is the tractor, hence the ensuing “The Tractor Goes Chug Chug Chug”, a song with quite a lot of ‘70s funk in the guitar, with a swampy Southern tone to it. The Little Farmers Chorus also completes the John Deere reference nicely before it quickly fades out less than two minutes later.
“I’m Just an Old Cow” again begins with a description and has more of a polka-feeling to it, with Ringenberg personifying the cow with a slower, deeper vocal. “Don’t like to make a scene, don’t like to make a fuss, sometimes I move so slow I make the farmer cuss”, he sings as George Bradfute adds a cello that depicts the cow’s “moo”. “He’s A Hog Hog Hog” has more of a country-rock style, although trying to get into a tune about a pig (which is nicely dressed up a la Elvis in the album sleeve’s artwork) is arduous at best. Regardless, Ringenberg is able to pull it off. By the time “The Doggie Dance” comes around, you are either questioning your sanity as an older child or slapping your knee as your kid dances and screams. Its own saving grace is its resemblance to “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron” tune of yesteryear.
And there are more, whether it’s the repetitive “meow, meow, meow” of “Little Kitty” or the bluegrass or mountain music blueprint to “Corny Corn”, which, believe it or not, isn’t all that corny. And then there is the Cajun-flavored “Hey Little Lamb”, a song that shouldn’t be as catchy as it is. The last tune features Tahra Dergee of a popular children’s television show on PBS. But by then, the sun is setting on this quirky yet surprising kid’s album.