In a slight departure from his role as asskicker-in-chief with Jason and the Scorchers, Jason Ringenberg has developed a child-friendly alter-ego. Or, it might be his identical twin brother. At any rate, Farmer Jason brings the great outdoors to the listener on “Nature Jams.” Young or old, you’ll probably learn something from this sing-a-long-friendly album.
Part of the charm lies in Jason assuming the role of tour guide, addressing the listener at the beginning of each song, before welcoming guests (such as ex-REM handyman Mike Mills or the Saw Doctors) to sing on his songs. Jason’s prelude is usually laced with humour, but always informative. Songs such as “Bayou Boogie,” featuring Terrence Simien, could have fallen from the pages of a vintage Disney script, while “Prairie Riddles” (featuring Iris DeMent) suggests that The Muppets erred in keeping largely to urban education.
A delightful poem by Webb Wilder leads into “Dison the Bison,” and we are further treated to songs about animals on “Manatee” – which features Hank III on vocals and Tommy Ramone on mandolin - and “The Moose Lives Where?” In between, Tom Petersson from Cheap Trick teaches us about cave exploring on “Spelunker.” “Have You Ever?” benefits from some delightful vocal company from Brandi Carlile, and the album is wrapped up in fitting fashion on “Skating Along,” which features Ringenberg’s two daughters.
You get the impression that a lot of effort has gone into this album. As a personal endeavour, Ringenberg will have wanted to do something for children – whether for his, for others or for all – that is both educational and entertaining. The fact that so many guest acts have contributed to this album – I have failed to name them all - is quite amazing. But then, the album itself is hugely enjoyable.