As the son of Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter, country singer and producer Shooter Jennings does a fantastic job keeping his parents’ music available through his BCR (Black Country Rock) record label. Yet to label him as some sort of outlaw country revivalist is limiting.
Sure, Shooter’s music has found him crossing paths with country music royalty (Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson) and like-minded peers (Jamey Johnson), but there’s a lot more to his catalog. He’s also recorded a Giorgio Moroder-style ode to ’80s soundtracks with Marilyn Manson and Brandi Carlile and brought his fans such eclectic selections as “Flying Saucer Song” and “Bad Magick.”
In each case, Shooter doesn’t fit the Nashville image. Nor does he really suit whatever’s left of rock music. He’s truly his own man as an artist, influenced by family and friends without copying their sounds.
The following list looks mostly to his more country-sounding material. However, it’s hard not to mix in a little variety when considering the large and varied catalog of one of underground music’s favorite sons.
10. “Some Rowdy Women”
Shooter’s whole catalog paints him as a creative mind unhappy with just celebrating his parents’ music. That said, he can sound a lot like daddy, as proved by this hard lesson about harder living from his Electric Rodeo album.
9. “God Bless Alabama”
Another great example of Shooter’s range as a songwriter is this cross between Southern and psychedelic rock. Think Gregg Allman, if his favorite Texas act had been the 13th Floor Elevators. It’s off the rather unorthodox album Black Ribbons.
8. “Daddy’s Farm”
Despite its title, this isn’t a warm and fuzzy song about Waylon. Instead, it’s the sort of steamy, bluesy rock ‘n’ roll you’d expect to hear at the filthiest dive in town.
7. “Busted in Baylor County”
Fast, electrified string band instruments drive this real country song about a bunch of stoned rock ‘n’ rollers. It’s what a Black Oak Arkansas bluegrass album might sound like.
6. “The Gunslinger”
This potty-mouthed diatribe better resembles good rap music than any “hick hop” hit from the past decade. Thank goodness those songs’ repetitive beats give way here to a saxophone solo.
5. “Manifesto No. 4”
Shooter’s influences, from solid country gold to various heavy rock offshoots, all borrow something from church music. This addition to his “Manifesto” series of songs points in an irreverent way to the gospel hymns that spawned early country music.
4. “Outlaw You”
Complaining about pop-country gets passe after a while, but at least Shooter breaks down why certain artists aren’t like him, much less Waylon. Plus, the bank robber analogy aimed at Johnny Cash and Hank Williams name-droppers’ fake outlaw bit really does make for a sick burn.
3. “The Outsider”
Shooter speaks for every outsider raised in a Southern family on this underrated anthem for underdogs. Every metal head, punk rocker, country fan and harder to classify weirdo with a copy of The Other Life gets what he’s singing about, loud and clear.
2. “Southern Comfort”
Many of Shooter’s best songs reference both his family legacy and his appreciation for a wider variety of sounds. Here, he best recreates that high and lonesome blues, peppered with some gospel and soul.
1. “4th of July”/”He Stopped Loving Her Today” (feat. George Jones)
Shooter and his band revel in what modern, rock-influenced country can be with this ode to George Jones sing-alongs. To drive the song’s point home, “4th of July” segues right into a powerful duet with the Possum.