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Shooter Jennings escapes the shadow

The Paradise, Boston, November 10, 2005

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Fortunately for Shooter Jennings, he is not afraid of the gigantic shadow in the form of his late father Waylon Jennings.

He is so unafraid that when the Johnny Cash biopic hits the silver screen, Waylon Jennings will be played by Shooter.

But the comparisons are inevitable along with the questions of whether Shooter is a worthy artist in his own right or merely riding the coattails.

The younger Jennings, in his mid-20s, of course isn't the artist that his father was at this stage, but he certainly turned in a competent, heartfelt show before an enthusiastic crowd of about 300 people, some of whom seemed to know every word of his songs.

He also possesses some of his dad's bravado, evidenced by the lead-off song in concert and on his debut, the title track, "Put the O Back in Country," where he sings, "So are you ready for the country/are you ready for me/better get ready for the country/Ain't I a sight to see."

One would think from this that Jennings owns a big ego and is full of himself, but that isn't the case. He takes his music seriously.

Jennings opts for more of a rock sound (interesting considering how he decries what has happened to country music), but he also knows a thing or two about a country song (the best song on the album and in concert is "4th of July."

Like his dad, he is somewhat of a rebel. He ditched Nashville for LA (in one of the best songs, "Solid Country Gold," Jennings sang, "I left there long ago/'cause they built Music City by sacrificing soul") for about three years, though he turned in a fine memory of his upbringing in "Southern Comfort," the name of the house in which he grew up."

He also seems enamored of drug songs as with the true tale of "Busted in Baylor County" along with several other drug references.

Jennings, who recalls Travis Tritt a lot, was a bit hoarse and thin vocally, apparently because he was suffering from a chest cold that shortened a gig the previous night in Toronto. But between songs from the debut and some new material coming out tentatively in April plus a few covers of songs of Waylon on this evening, Jennings showed enough talent at this point in his career.

Sarah Borges, an up-and rising country and blues singer from the Boston area, preceded Jennings with a well-received set. Borges received much acclaim for her debut out on the small Blue Corn label out of Texas earlier this year, "Silver City," as well as an appearance at the Americana Music Association confab in Nashville in September.

Borges dished out more of a bluesy rock than country sound and quickly won over a large crowd. She has enough of a voice, attitude and presence to warrant being a comer.