Shooter Jennings

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Shooter Review

by Mark Deming

Shooter Jennings has long been a man struggling to serve two masters, and he's actually done a pretty good job of it. Part of him is a rock & roller who wants to turn up the amps and summon the thunder, while another side of him is a country boy who can sing a barroom anthem or a high lonesome weeper as well as anyone short of his dad, Waylon. Jennings is more than capable of bringing both sides of his musical personality together on one album, but for 2018's Shooter, he's put rock & roll on the back burner for the most part, and lets his country instincts take center stage. The opening cut, "Bound ta Git Down," is a rollicking boogie number that kicks up plenty of dust, but it's followed by "Do You Love Texas?," a pedal steel-infused two-step (with a side of phased guitar) that wouldn't have been out of place on one of his dad's records (though Waylon might not have cited Alex Jones as one of the great things about the Lone Star State). "D.R.U.N.K." and "I'm Wild & My Woman Is Crazy" are numbers in the great outlaw tradition, and though "Shades & Hues" and "Denim & Diamonds" sound more like vintage country-rock than anything else, they're well executed and Jennings delivers them with conviction. Jennings wrote "Living in a Minor Key" for family friend George Jones, and if Shooter isn't quite up to the Ol' Possum's vocal skills, he sure knows how to make a sad song work. Dave Cobb produced Shooter and co-wrote four of the tracks, and he reaffirms his status as one of the best studio hands currently at work in Nashville, drawing consistently great performances from Jennings and the studio band and giving this music a crisp but natural sound. There's a good chance we're going to get a full-on rock album from Jennings now that he's gotten this out of his system, but as an expression of his country soul, Shooter ranks with his best work to date.

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