By Robert Dean
It takes a lot of time, patience, and mistakes to realize who you are as a man. From the way we get knocked down, to what we do next when the dust settles, all of those moments matter, they say something about us, what stock we’re built from.
Throughout Shooter Jennings career, he’s made it a point always to turn left when his peers go right, to duck and dodge, when everyone else is out there trying to sing a little ditty to sell a few Dodges. He’s a man you cannot put a label on, because the minute you try, he’ll outwit you and drop a surprise you never saw coming.
On his latest record, Shooter, Jennings has done it again. He’s made the album no one expected, except this time, some ghosts are lingering of a different variety. Shooter isn’t a record Jennings could have made when I first met him almost ten years ago, instead, that Shooter Jennings was channeling his inner Trent Reznor, he was finding new and beautiful ways to fuck with anyone who thought they knew him.
On Black Ribbons, Shooter Jennings wrote a concept record that has flashes of brilliance that hit harder today than we could have foreseen at the time. The fact that that album lies dormant in a lot of rock and roll minds is a crime, but hopefully, history will be on Jennings side, and he’ll get the credit he deserves.
Following that record, Jennings stayed close to country, writing records like Family Man or The Other Life, which are strong genre records, but they still had a flavor of angst, a shadowy, “can I crank up the gain a little here”, or “can I try this concept on them” there. Straight ahead country records, they were not. While solid, that era of Jennings career wasn’t his most pure; it was a time of growth and personal observation, which in the greater catalog, we can see the direct impact of.
On Shooter though, everything feels different. There’s no way, the guy who wrote Black Ribbons could have sat down and written “Born to Git Down” – Shooter is a portrait into a man who’s come to terms with his abilities, goals, and what he’s after. You can’t write a bunch of feel-good tunes that go hard with the beers, without a sense of purpose, and humility, otherwise, it comes off contrived and douchey, AKA most of the garbage pop country radio pedals.
Collectively, Shooter is Jennings best record. It’s fun, it’s loud, and it’s carefree. There’s elements of boogie-woogie, Motown, pure rock and roll, and a lot of heart. “Do You Love Texas” should be a new Lone Star anthem given it’s unabashed, bold, and in your face, which are all things Texans love. My new hobby is to pull the song up on a TouchTunes jukebox, and then watch people walk up to see the track, and immediately put it on their phones.
“Denim & Diamonds” calls back to Hank Jr’s “Outlaw Woman” a solid beer tune, good for the dark bar, and those drinks you have alone when the day’s been just a little too long for small talk.
I appreciate and applaud Shooter Jennings for reaching inside of himself and owning his legacy and his past. I hope the world around him, and the country radio program managers take a risk and add a few of the tunes off Shooter, if anything, as an effort to save their souls, because Shooter is fun, it’s reckless, and it’s pure country music that is without false pretense. If you can’t kick up your heels to “D.R.U.N.K,” you need to take those boots right off the dance floor, mate.
Shooter is available everywhere you ingest fine music.