Having Waylon Jennings as your dad is a tough act to follow, especially if you go into music as well... Shooter Jennings picked up the "outlaw country" banner, mixing in a hefty dose of Southern rock and greasy grunge. To be honest, I'm not his biggest fan, but there are parts of what he does that I enjoy, and I'm certainly curious to see where he goes next... Here's a quick look at his work...
Shooter Jennings "Put The O Back In Country" (Universal South, 2004)
(Produced by Dave Cobb)
Are you sure ol' Hoss done 'em this a-way? Shooter goes through the same motions as, say, Hank Williams III or even Kid Rock, going out of his way to point out how all-fired rowdy and rebellious he is... He gets kinda grungy with the Southern-ish, bar-band rock, and he even gets dad's old pal George Jones to do a guest appearance on one song... Yet somehow Shooter just isn't as colossally cool as his old man was. Then again, who is? This album has an almost-but-not-quite, hey-kid-quit-trying-so hard quality that's almost a little heartbreaking... I was so distracted (and at times irritated) by all the hey-look-over-here outlaw/Southern rock theatrics that it was pretty hard to tell how good a singer Shooter might actually be. His voice is clearly not as rich and his phrasing nowhere near as skillful as Waylon's, but I suspect that given a more relaxed, more intelligent production style, he might prove a much stronger artist than this disc would suggest. If you're a Waylon fan, you could check this out... It doesn't really suck, it just kinda misses the mark. PS: I read somewhere how Shooter credits his girlfriend (actress Drea Matteo, no less...) with coming up with the "O"-less version of the word "country..." Uh, anyone out there remember that Carlene Carter made that same joke twenty-five years earlier...? Naw. Didn't think so...
Shooter Jennings "Electric Rodeo" (Universal South, 2006)
(Produced by Dave Cobb)
A loud, lurid, in-your-face, Southern-rocky set. Ronnie Van Zandt would be proud.
Shooter Jennings "Live At Irving Plaza: 4-18-06" (Universal South, 2006)
Shooter Jennings "The Wolf" (Universal South, 2007)
Shooter Jennings "Black Ribbons" (Rocket Science, 2010)
Shooter Jennings "Family Man" (Entertainment One, 2012)
Shooter Jennings "Don't Wait Up (For George)" (EP) (Black Country Rock, 2014)
Another George Jones tribute record...This five-song EP has original material such as the title track, "Don't Wait Up (I'm Playin' Possum)," as well as covers of some classics from the Jones catalog. Now, I'm all in favor of honoring ol' George, but I'm still just not feeling it with Shooter. I mean, how could anyone possibly get a song like "She Thinks I Still Care" so very, very wrong, or give such a blaring, bland rock arrangement to a tune like "The Door"? I know he's doing well and has lots of devoted fans, but I just don't find Shooter to have the gravitas to pull off the whole honkytonk rebel/outlaw icon thing. Maybe it's a generational difference... but maybe not. See for yourself.
Shooter Jennings "Bad Magick: The Best Of Shooter Jennings & The 357s" (Universal South, 2009)
Waylon's son Shooter has had a good run so far, as this modest, 15-song best-of set shows. Shooter seems to have mostly forsaken his country roots, opting instead for a loud, rough Southern rock sound, appealing perhaps to fans of Ronnie Van Zandt, The Black Crowes and Drive By Truckers (and fitting a little less comfortably into the current Top 40 country trend towards Southern rock revival). Shooter's music is rough-hewn and ragged, his voice is a bit thin, but he seems to have his heart in the right place, and over the course of this album you can hear a lot of stylistic growth. Of particular interest is an acoustic tune recorded for online radio, and "Living Proof," a boozy country weeper written by Hank Williams Jr., about his relation to his famous dad. This previously unreleased performance, although good, points out a potential pitfall for Jennings, which is how not to become a white-trash-stereotype self-parody while trying to live up to his father's outlaw image. Although I personally am more into pedal steel and twang, rather than loud electric solos, I think Shooter may be on the right track with the rebel rocker thing, since it's more his own style than his dad's. (For sure, Waylon was never afraid to plug in, but he remained closer to Lefty Frizzell than he did to Molly Hatchet...) This retrospective is pretty good - it's certainly made me curious to see where Jennings goes from here.
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