After the first 30 seconds of "The Other Life," listeners may feel like they are in for "Black Ribbons Part 2." The reality is that like all of Jennings' previous albums, this one has a distinctive sound. He has forayed through Southern Rock, outlaw country and most recently released the straightforward country album "Family Man," which most effectively channeled his daddy's musical ghost. The bulk of "The Other Life" was recorded during those sessions, but it is anything but a straightforward 1970's inspired country collection, instead focusing on darker themes.
After the awkward beginning of The Flying Saucer song, a Pink Floyd like piano driven spaced out tune, the album switches gears. Again and again. A Hard Lesson to Learn and The White Trash Song have a healthy dose of the blues. The title track is a sparse ballad. Mama, It's Just My Medicine is a return to Southern Rock. The Outsider would have fit comfortably on "Put the O Back in Country."
The album is a mixed bag, touching on a variety of genres, which are loosely held together with Jennings' distinctive voice. Sometimes the shift between songs is uncomfortable, distracting from the "wholeness" of the collection as a complete album. The album features some high quality guests: Patty Griffin, Scott Biram and Black Oak Arkansas' Jim Dandy. Unfortunately not one of the collaborations lives up to the caliber of the contributors' regular fare.
The high points are two attitude laced in-your-face songs that continue the theme that the misplaced Southern Family Anthem started. Previously released Outlaw You is a brash attack on the state of the mainstream country industry, including thinly veiled pokes at Eric Church and Jason Aldean. The Gunslinger slows the tempo down, but ups the vitriol. Both songs are Jennings' way of addressing the Outlaw label that his daddy fought so hard to overcome.
"The Other Life" was released as a companion soundtrack to a short film that Jennings' created. Judged solely as a musical collection, it is a little more disjointed than his other albums, sounding like a b-sides collection compiled from pieces of each of his previous albums. Hardcore fans should find something that reminds them of their favorite Jennings' release, but the random genre switches may be a tough sell for casual fans.