On the second track of Shooter Jennings’ new album, Shooter, he asks fans “Do You Love Texas?”
In reality, he should be asking them if they love rowdy, good-time, Hank Williams Jr. inspired country music, because that’s exactly what they get on his new album.
Produced by Dave Cobb, Shooter is described by Jennings as his “left turn” to do a “really country record.” From the beginning with his debut album, Put The ‘O’ Back In Country, Jennings has gone from country to experimenting with psychedelic metal and hard rock. One of his albums was even a tribute to electronic disco pioneer Giorgio Moroder.
Still, it’s hard not to see Shooter as a nice return to Jennings’ roots overall. Of course, don’t think that straight-laced traditional country music is all you’re going to get here. Right away, Jennings opens with a burst of energy on “Bound Ta Git Down,” a horn infused jam that recalls the aforementioned Williams’ “Born To Boogie.”
Elsewhere, Shooter can at times feel like one of Jennings’ most personal and yet lightweight projects to date. It’s a fun listen overall, but it’s also one that’s got some layers to it that can be missed upon first listen.
“Living In A Minor Key” is an example of this. Coming off of the ode to his father and Willie Nelson on “Do You Love Texas?”, Jennings shifts into stone-cold country mode with the heartbreaking track (the song originally appeared on Jennings’ tribute to George Jones, Don’t Wait Up (For George) in 2014).
Among the other highlights is “Shade and Heus,” a tribute to the dreamers out there who persevere to make their dreams come true. Something commendable about Jennings’ perspective on certain tracks such as this one and “Denim and Diamonds” is that he allows a female protagonist to shine, something other male country artists are afraid to try out.
The final three tracks are really what capture Jennings at his best lyrically and in terms of the production. “Rhinestone Eyes” feels like a long-lost classic out of the ‘80s. Lyrically, it’s like a poem that takes form in your mind as Jennings sings lines such as “there’s lightning in your touch, I’m captured and the sky is burning red.” This could be a serious song of the year contender.
“Fast Horses and Good Hideouts” is a fitting tribute to Jennings’ late best friend and manager, Jon Hensley. Alongside that, it’s also a desire to be the best person he possibly could be as well as once again pay tribute to his father and his dog. “Denim and Diamonds” is definitely the outlier in terms of production on this album, with a thick, smoky, hazy quality that pays more tribute ‘80s rock than country. That doesn’t make it any less of a song though, as Jennings handles the track exceptionally well. Lyrically too, its ode to working hard and blowing off steam is certainly a nice testament to what country music is all about.
The only disappointing part about Shooter is that it can feel a bit lacking. At only nine tracks, it feels like it could use one more to really push it over the edge, especially when certain tracks like “I’m Wild and My Woman Is Crazy” and “D.R.U.N.K” feel like throwaway cuts.
Still, overall, Shooter is a well-balanced album that sees Jennings capture what’s best about country music in one tight collection. The legends that came before would be proud. Find the album here.