The year is still young. But this critic’s list of candidates for the year’s best albums is already beginning to fill up quickly. The Slide Brothers and Experience Hendrix, Inc. have already made the case to be candidates with their new releases. Now another album has made the case to be not just on the list of the year’s best albums, but also the year’s best Country Music albums. It’s Shooter Jennings’ new album, The Other Life.
The Other Life is proof that one should never judge a book (or a CD) by its cover. At first glance, one glance at the artwork for Shooter’s new album might lead some to believe that this album is going to be much like that of Black Ribbons, which he recorded with the members of Hierophant. The artwork used throughout the album’s packaging is quite similar to images used throughout albums released by Tool. But one listen through this album reveals something quite different. What listeners get in this latest release from one of Outlaw Country’s best is eleven radio ready and easily accessible country songs. Every listener will find something especially entertaining from this album’s song list. Every song carries a familiar vibe from Shooter’s previous LPs. But they don’t sound like the songs from his previous releases. In simple terms, each song on this album is an original work similar to his previous songs in feeling only. One of the album’s brightest shining moments comes halfway through the album in the song, ‘Outlaw You.’
‘Outlaw You’ is bound to become a fan favorite both on the record and at live shows. It is a defiant stance against so much pop country that tries to call itself pure country. Jennings sings loud and proud in this song, “Hey pretty boy/With the baseball hat/Couldn’t hit country with a baseball bat/Country ain’t just about where you’re at/It’s about being true/To what’s inside of you/You say you’re an outlaw/With the perfect boots/That you got from the record label’s image group/Sing another man’s song/With a big drum loop/Listen, son/You ain’t got a clue/You can’t buy true/I’ll tell you what they should do/They should outlaw you!” This echoes the sentiment of Jennings’ fellow Outlaw Country artist, Hank III. Hank III wrote a similar song some time ago about how so much pop country tries to masquerade as real country. This song is one more that any country purist will surely appreciate and enjoy as it has the exact same true emotion.
While it may not seem like it at first listen, but another high point of this LP is its penultimate track, ’15 Million Light Years Away (featuring Jim Dandy). Dandy’s vocals are so rich and vibrant here. They make for an excellent counterpart to that of Jennings. And the guitar solos thrown in will almost sure lead to thoughts of Lynyrd Skynyrd. Lyrically, it comes across as a social commentary of sorts, with the duo singing about the legal system being perverted and of everything in the world being in a state contrary to what it should be. The musical backing helps to set the song’s mood, too with its slower, minor sound. It stands out unlike anything else on the record.
Perhaps the most intriguing song on The Other Life is its closer, ‘The Gunslinger.’ What makes it so intriguing is its musical side. It starts out like any pure country song, with an acoustic guitar and soft, gentle vocals. From there, it proceeds to crescendo to something totally different with its mix of electronics and sax part eventually ending the song. Forget the lyrical side here. This is a song that simply must be experienced solely for its musical side. It’s an unlikely candidate to be one of the album’s high points. But because it is also so different from anything else on the record, it is one of those songs that will lead to discussion for its ingenuity. In turn, the discussions that it is sure to raise will prove why it is one of the so many high points of this album. Put simply, every song on this album will appeal to country purists and country music fans in general. There is not one bad moment throughout the course of this record. Every song creates a wholly different feel within itself and its listeners with every listen. And that is something rare at this point in the music industry. The album will be available in stores, Tuesday, March 12th. Before it drops though, Jennings will hit the road in support of the new album, beginning March 6th in Miami Florida on the Kid Rock Cruise. From there, he will perform at the annual SXSW Festival in Austin, TX on March 12th and 13th. Fans in North Carolina will also get their chance to see Shooter live. He will be performing at Ziggy’s in Winston-Salem on Tuesday, April 16th and on Friday, May 24th at Gus’ Bar in Jacksonville, NC. Audiences can get a full tour rundown and all the latest news and more from Jennings on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ShooterJennings and http://www.ShooterJennings.com.
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