Unfortunately, for all Ringenberg's status as alt-country godfather, the music he recorded between 1984 and this year has rarely matched the achievement of that first album. A few years back, the Scorchers broke up and Ringenberg moved into a more straightforward country direction. Now he's finally put out a record that sounds like a solid follow-up to Fervor.
Ringenberg's instincts have always led him to seek out collaborators. His cohorts in the Scorchers, however, started chasing a different muse long before he was ready to acknowledge the loss of compatibility. Now, for his third solo release, he revisits the joy of working with others by inviting a series of guest artists, from Steve Earle to Todd Snider to Lambchop.
Considering the variety of approaches to songwriting and musicianship employed, All Over Creation is a remarkably consistent album. Oh, there are highlights -- the buoyant "James Dean's Car," co-written by Snider, and the deliciously tender sweetness of "Camille," an ode to his young daughter -- but no wrong turns interrupt the flow of delights. Ringenberg sounds as if he's having a blast, and his cohorts catch hold of his enthusiasm. Overall, it's a funny, sad, lighthearted, somber trip through the mixed emotions of a music-biz veteran who's learned the value of hanging out with talented friends.