It’s gotta be tough to try finding your own persona outside the shadow of your famous last name, and Shooter Jennings has taken a long and winding road to find his amid a slew of experimental, fringe country albums over the years. But with his latest release The Other Life, Jennings appears to be coming full-circle back to his outlaw country roots.
Granted, you wouldn’t know that listening just to the opening track, “Flying Saucer Song”, a piano-heavy, ethereal number that doesn’t sound much like country at all, and is pure instrumental until the last 45 seconds. But keep listening. From southern-fried honky-tonk tunes like “The Low Road” and “The White Trash Song” to the mid-tempo “The Outsider” to ballads like the title track and “Wild and Lonesome” (a moving duet with Patty Griffin), this album is pure old-school outlaw, delivered in Shooter Jennings’ own signature style that’s just left of center.
It also appears that Jennings has his own opinion about what constitutes “outlaw”, and he’s not afraid to express it. (Admittedly, he ought to know.) On “Outlaw You,” he pulls no punches in his tirade against modern Nashville country polish and the new breed of bad boys: “Hey, pretty boy in the baseball hat / Couldn’t hit country with a baseball bat…You say you’re an outlaw with your perfect boots / That you got from your record label’s image group / Sing another man’s songs with a big drum loop.” Ouwtch. If the whole record were like that, I don’t think we could take him seriously, but Jennings wisely gets it out of his system and moves on.
All taken together, though, the overarching achievement on The Other Life is that Shooter Jennings comes across as a veteran country artist who has found himself, and perhaps more importantly, found his own niche apart from his father’s fame. Whatever your opinion of his occasional outspokenness, Jennings has proven with this album that he is an artist in his own right, an artist who deserves to be heard.