Shooter Jennings brought his raucous brand of outlaw country music to DC on Wednesday, rocking the house at City Winery.
He’s spitting image of his daddy, the legendary Waylon Jennings, right down to the prominent proboscis, albeit carrying a more slender figure. Touring behind his new album, Shooter, he’s picking up the torch his father carried, turning his back on Nashville and Hollywood, making music his way, as he expressed in the song “Solid Country Gold/The Outsider.”
While Shooter’s music says a lot about how he feels about the music industry, it’s also about how having a good time with a fun sound. He’s calling this the “Bound Ta Git Down Tour” after the lead track on his new album, and he opened his set with its rollicking, boogie-woogie keyboards. I absolutely love the lines “Bound ta git down / Down like a basset hound.” (This makes me picture an adorable basset hound, droopy ears and all, bouncing around, playing with a toy.) He also sang passionately about what he called “America’s favorite pastime” on the wild “DRUNK” (I suspect that, given certain recent legal developments, it may no longer be the favorite pastime of the District, or of several states.)
Watch the official music video for DRUNK by Shooter Jennings on YouTube:
As the son of Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter, Shooter grew up in Nashville steeped in the lore and community of country music. He knows and respects the heritage, but at the same time he sees ways to evolve and advance the genre. He played a heavy, blistering hard rock interpretation of George Jones’s “The Door” that I would never have imagined — it bordered on heavy metal.
If anyone was going to do a heavy metal take on George Jones, it’d be Shooter Jennings. His last album, Countach (for Giorgio), was a tribute to Italian electronic music composer Giorgio Moroder. In 2010, he released Black Ribbons, a concept album influenced by the sound of Blue Oyster Cult, and featuring narration by Stephen King. During Wednesday’s concert, Shooter and his band played one of the main tracks from Black Ribbons, “All Of This Could Have Been Yours.”
Shooter has been characterized, at times, as alt-country, and there’s some truth to that. There was plenty of twang on Wednesday night, but there was also plenty of heavy sound. This is not the type of country you’re going to hear on the radio. There’s fiddle here, but there’s also distortion. Shooter has a background playing straight-up hard rock, and he’s melding those techniques into the country music he’s making now. If you’re a rocker who wants to experiment with country, you should let Shooter be your gateway.