When Jim Ringer sang, it was hard to believe he hadn't lived every line - whether he was singing about prospecting for gold up in Alaska or falling in love along the San Joaquin. Known for his solo albums and for his recordings and performances with Mary McCaslin, Jim helped define folk music in the 1970s. Jim Ringer lived hard but he sang gently - and after all these years he still has me convinced. - Steve Netsky
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Jim Ringer has finally been returned to us, thanks to this recent Rounder compilation. Ringer, who died of hard living in 1992, started out in California string bands, and honky tonk and folk gatherings in the 60s, and his recordings have the sometimes bruisy, sometimes sweet feel of Guthrie, Owens, and Haggard. This set has most of his finest compositions: especially haunting is the drifter's vision "Tramps and Hawkers," an archetypal melody given to a tale of desire and wanderlust, with the sweep and detail of Guthrie's best work. From outlaw to new traditionalist to singer-songwriter, Ringer neither prefigured nor established any important country direction, but his music encapsulates them all. --Ray Francis Kasten