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Shooter Jennings

Shooter – 2018 (Elektra)

Reviewed by Jim Hynes

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CDs by Shooter Jennings

Shooter Jennings is the latest to link to Dave Cobb for production on the simply titled "Shooter." As one of today's leading outlaw country voices, Jennings is adept at marrying traditional country with fierce rock n' roll. When you're born into musical royalty, the bar is always set remarkably high, but Jennings has been a constant explorer, who has formed his own signature style. This time out, though, Jennings puts aside the eclecticism he is known for, deciding instead to make a straightforward country record, complete with the licks and lyrical approach that runs through classic country. "It's a very honest record," Jennings says."There are no magic tricks.It's really stuff that's from the heart; it really encapsulates a lot of the styles I've done across all my records."

Tunes like "Fast Horses & Good Hideouts" and the brass-fueled boogie-woogie of "Bound Ta Git Down," finds Jennings singing songs about growing up and getting older, about going out and getting wasted. This is relatable stuff, even down to the direct "D.R.U.N.K.," a redneck anthem where Jennings' twang, in rather tongue-in-cheek fashion, makes the letters sound like 'USA.' The outstanding "Shades and Hues" sounds as if his dad was watching over him. "I'm Wild and My Woman Is Crazy' comes right out of the "Six Days on the Road" trucker style.

On the other hand, "Living In a Minor Key" is as good as country ballads get. "Rhinestone Eyes" is one of those swinging door saloon tunes just made for a jukebox. The piano-driven "Denim and Diamonds" sounds a bit more contemporary, but has as much, if not impact than the others. Notably, on "Do You Love Texas?" the background voices form a star-studded lineup: Ray Benson, Jason Boland, Kris Kristofferson, Kacey Musgraves, Whiskey Myers and Randy Rogers.

The musicians are mostly a core band consisting of Jennings on keys and guitar, Leroy Powell (lead guitar), Brian Allen (bass), Chris Powell (drums), Cobb (guitar) and Fred Newell (steel guitar). Ben Clark and Nate Heffron add horns on select tracks. Bekka Bramlett and Kristen Rogers provide most the background vocals.

We need more foundational country music. Thanks to Jennings for reminding us how good it can be.