Within seconds of the opening Flying Saucer Song, it becomes clear that Shooter Jennings, the ever youthful, country rock star is not willing to make the same album over again like many of his contemporaries.
As the son of country star Waylon Jennings, expectation has been on Shooter’s shoulders for a long time now, but he seems to take it all in his stride and make the music he wants to play.
A Hard Lesson To Learn should appeal to rock fans just as much as his existing country fan base, sounding like classic Lynyrd Skynyrd, whilst the lilting duet Wild & Lonesome with Patty Griffin is like vintage ‘50s hillbilly but with a few modern production flourishes.
What’s particularly clever about Shooter’s music is that he has a sense of humour about outside perceptions of country music and it’s associations with rednecks and hillbillys, and he isn’t afraid to poke the proverbial. Last year it was Southern Family Anthem on the Family Man album that explored all about incestuous relations with redneck cousins. This time the punchy Outlaw You takes a pot-shot at all the pretenders and posers with it’s not so subtle refrain of ‘hey pretty boy in the baseball hat, you couldn’t hit country with a baseball bat’.
The best tunes on the album are probably The Low Road with its line-dancing groove and the bbq chill-out of Mama, It’s Just My Medicine but the truth is that they’re all belters on this record.
It’s clear that Shooter Jennings isn’t content with trading off his father’s name, and his country rock crossover is an appealing mix. His rasping vocals and cool-dude looks complete the part, but it never feels disingenuous. Albums like The Other Life prove just how much he loves the genre and how much it is a part of him. It’s certainly up there with his best work on 2007’s The Wolf, and with no sign of letting up, Shooter is proving to be something of a Mr Consistency after last year’s equally engaging Family Man. Without a weak tune in sight, Shooter should once again be the soundtrack of the summer.