Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#883 in the Series) is Shooter Jennings, The Other Life
Much like his old man, the venerable Waylon Jennings, Shooter Jennings wears the blaze your own trail outlaw crown to musical perfection on his latest release The Other Life.
Showing a consistently cool and carefully crafted career path going back to his debut 2005 release, Put the O Back in Country, Shooter Jennings may lure you into the listening kiosk with his pedigree, and he does play the modern day outlaw role to perfection, it is actually his own unique blending of Country Roots Rock Americana with a peppering of good old fashioned Rock & Roll soul that brings you back to the party.
Where Papa relied mostly on singing other peoples songs, the offspring, and arguably the more talented Jennings, really knows his way around a song. His earlier works including the stunning “4th of July” and the autobiographical narrative “Busted in Baylor County,” a song that describes the “my cousin Vinnie” style drug bust episode while on tour in Texas, began to earn Shooter recognition as a top-notch songwriter in the Billy Joe Shaver mold, and earned him a seat at the adults table.
After somewhat of a sophomore slump with Electric Rodeo that was half of a star less on the review scale, and with the quality of each subsequent album slipping ever so slightly, rock bottom was finally hit with 2010’s Black Ribbons, a w-t-f sort of concept album that much like Metallica’s Lulu never should have seen the light of day. It wasn’t until 2012 with the release of Family Man that Shooter Jennings faced his musical demons and seemed to make conscious decisions to shed the schizophrenic more Hank III type persona he had created for himself over the years and fully embraced his legacy.
On this album, the songwriting was getting tighter and the vibe was becoming much more organic than the forced feeling that was coming across on his earlier efforts. This was a country album without the fancy boots and the glossy sheen, and courtesy of songs like “The Southern Family Album,” a tune that is right out of the Lynyrd Skynryd school of Southern Rock, Jennings delivers a manifesto that serves as a poke in the eye to contemporaries like Kid Rock and Hank III.
Somewhat of a sister act to Family Man, six songs from those sessions morphed their way on to The Other Life, the new record continues to play it forward with a rock solid set of songs that plays on but does not copy or exploit the family pedigree, while providing enough left turns to keep things amazingly fresh, current, and vibrant.
No need to clear that wax out of your ears, the opening track on the album, “Flying Saucer Song,” does have an Electric Light Orchestra meets Pink Floyd personality to it, and while it may be somewhat unexpected from a country roots rocker, its way cool. Diversity is king on this album.
The songwriting here continues to be tight and in your face with the best and most unflinching of the lot being “Outlaw You,” a spit in the eye to the pretty boy country scene. Pay close attention Keith Urban.
“You say you’re an outlaw with those perfect boots that you got from your record labels image group. Sing another man’s song with a big drum loop. listen man you aint got a clue. You can’t buy true, tell you what they should do, they should outlaw you.”
The tell it the way it is mantra continues with “A Hard Lesson to Learn,” an ode to the perils of life on the road and the ravages of wine, women and song, where George “No-Show” Jones is name checked along with Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams. On the lost highway the devil collects the bones.
Kid Rock seems to be the musical muse on “The White Trash Song” with a sparkling guest turn from Scott H. Biram and it is the rockingest song on the set, and “Mama It’s Just My Medicine” is pure Steve Miller, and could have been an outtake from The Book of Dreams sessions. Other fine and less than hipster collaborations include the one of a kind Jim Dandy in fine white snake moan vocal form after all these years on “15 Million Light-Years Away,” and Patty Griffin on “Wild & Lonesome,” a song that could have been performed by Johnny and June, a definite Ying and Yang in collaborative choices.
Anyone that thinks the outlaw movement died with the man in black should consider revising their opinion, and if you don’t believe me listen to the final track on this superb album. On “The Gunslinger” he tells us the way it is. “I’m not an outlaw; I’m a mother of a gunslinger.”
Well Shooter Jennings, truth be told, if The Other Life is any indication. You are a little bit of both.
– Walt Falconer, Houston Texas, USA
- Flying Saucer Song
- A Hard Lesson To Learn
- The White Trash Song
- Wild & Lonesome
- Outlaw You
- The Other Life
- The Low Road
- Mama, It’s Just My Medicine
- The Outsider
- 15 Million Light-Years Away
- The Gunslinger