Shooter Jennings

The Other Life

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AllMusic Review by

Shooter Jennings has always demanded to be taken on his own terms. If 2012's Family Man was his most "country" album, The Other Life is its companion and mirror, not its follow-up. Six of these tracks were cut at the earlier album's sessions, including the firebrand "Outlaw You," the tune for the music video that was a musical middle finger to Eric Church and Jason Aldean (which has curiously gone unanswered). The Other Life is wilder, darker, rowdier, and more diverse than its predecessor. The brooding opener "Flying Saucer Song," a piano- and effects-driven number, is eventually transformed into a spaced-out, gospel-tinged song about space (outer and inner). It throws the listener for a loop, but resolutely belongs -- but only as the first cut. The set contains gorgeous country ballads such as "Wild and Lonesome" (with Patty Griffin on backing vocals) and the title track. There are fine, midtempo honky tonkers including "The Outsider" and the pedal steel- and banjo-saturated "The Low Road." There are steamy, electric, country-kissed, blues-rock numbers such as "A Hard Lesson to Learn," and the rock & roll boogie of "Mama It's Just My Medicine." There's a shuffling, snarling, futuristic, midtempo Americana tune in "15 Million Light Years Away," with reverb-drenched production that features a weathered (not weary) Jim Dandy -- from Black Oak Arkansas -- as a duet partner. The first single is a wooly, rowdy reading of Steve Young's "White Trash Song," with Scott H. Biram guesting. Young, an underground legend, authored the outlaw anthem "Lonesome Orn'ry & Mean," a signature tune for Jennings' dad. This reading of the 1971 tune contains skittering rockabilly drums, pumping upright bass, wailing pedal steel, hyper-acoustic guitars, piercing fiddles, and an additional verse. (Neither Jennings nor Biram took a co-write for it; something unheard of in Music City.) It underscores the iconoclastic legacy bequeathed to Jennings by his free-spirited parents. But more than that, the song is a celebration of all that doesn't fit -- anywhere. It's an apt self-referential metaphor. Album-closer "The Gunslinger" is Jennings' own anthem, drenched in country, rock, R&B, and even jazz, courtesy of the improvisational interplay between Jonathan Stewart's tenor saxophone, guitars, keyboards, and the rhythm section. Its lyric is a militant gauntlet directed at those who would disrespect him, yet displays a camaraderie with outsider musicians of all stripes. Jennings truly came into his own on Family Man, but on The Other Life, he pushes the boundaries further, offering some of the finest songs he's written to date. He fully realizes here what he's been attempting all along. Box these sounds whichever way you want to, but they are all Shooter Jennings, and as music, The Other Life is all killer, no filler.

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