By Al Kaufman
“Kid’s music” is always a term that makes parents cringe. Incessant blips and beeps interacting with tinny music, high pitched voices and simplistic feel-good rhymes are enough to make any adult rethink parenthood. But lately, rock and rollers have entered the kid’s genre and made it not only tolerable, but downright pleasant for parents. People like Dan Zanes, They Might Be Giants and Asylum Street Spankers have saved many a parent from reaching for that bottle of Valium.
Add Jason Ringenberg’s name to the list. Ringenberg was the frontman for the groundbreaking country-punk band, Jason and the Scorchers. The story goes that he wanted to make something for his two little daughters to remember him by when he was on the road. Since his family lives on a farm in Tennessee, he created the Farmer Jason moniker. He released A Day at the Farm with Farmer Jason for fun and never thought it would be his biggest selling disc. He followed that with Rockin’ in the Forest with Farmer Jason and an Emmy Award winning Nashville Public Television Show, It’s a Farmer Jason.
With songs like “Punk Rock Skunk” (complete with a Ramones "Hey ho, let’s go" refrain), Ringenberg brings all his frenetic energy to his kids fare, while at the same time he teaches subtle lessons on caring for others and the environment. His motto for his kids’ CDs is “Anarchy in the Pre-K.” It’s fun, high energy, and the guitars wail. It’s sometimes hard to remember that it’s geared for folks who mean juice when they say they need a drink.
The new It’s a . . . Farmer Jason! DVD makes it clear this is kids’ music. Most of the cuts here are videos from the PBS television show. It’s Jason vamping it up in his farming attire and guitar, singing with a bunch of little kids (many of whom are his daughters’ friends). It’s fun to see a little guy with long hair and sunglasses rocking out to “Punk Rock Skunk,” but the effect of watching a bunch of these videos continually eventually wears thin. There are some shining moments, like when the gum-chewing, stoned looking Todd Snider asks Jason to help him find his lost pet in a guitar store in “Moose on the Loose,” but mostly it’s little kids having fun while the occasional word jumps out on the screen.
Jason seems to have recognized this and interspersed some concert footage into the mix. It’s Jason on stage while kids (and parents) dance around, just for variety. For “Opossum in a Pocket,” he’s joined by former Scorcher Warner E. Hodges, who lives up to the band’s name with his blistering guitar solo. The two old friends having a blast on stage will bring a big smile to any adult's face.
For parents, watching the video may grow old quickly, but listening to the music will not. For the kids, both the video and the music will provide hours of great entertainment, and will train the little buckaroos as to what good music should sound like. And anything that keeps them away from Hannah Montana is worth its weight in gold.
Farmer Jason plays the Red Light Cafe on Sunday, June 28. 2 p.m. $8/$10.