"I am beginning to believe the deals our forefathers made with the Devil not that long ago sealed our fate as well as theirs. How many generations will the Calling seduce and intoxicate? Did any of us have a choice? The salvation of the lonely road country blues fever is passed down, each generation stubbornly as rebellious as the one that infected and inspired it. Thank God for the Curse; the velocity and quality of modern day Roots music is the only saving grace I see in these sorry times and it gives me hope for our children."- Luther Dickinson/North Mississippi Allstars and the Black Crowes
Shooter Jennings has worn many hats throughout his career: the self-described "son of a rebel saint," the hell-raising vigilante minister at a revival of true country music, the radical prophet using rock and roll as his medium, the guiding light for an ever-growing army of young musicians who are, like Shooter himself, outsiders in today's music business. Now after a career where he has done everything from sharing the stage with Alice in Chains to writing songs for the Oak Ridge Boys, Shooter will finally reveal the man at the heart of it all on March 13th when he releases Family Man on Entertainment One Nashville.
As the title suggests, Family Man is Shooter's most personal and introspective album to date, focusing on his home life with fiancee Drea de Matteo and their two children, the endless temptations of life on the road, his Southern heritage and upbringing, and his unique position among today's country musicians.
Shooter relies heavily on his own experiences throughout the album and as a result many of the songs are autobiographical in nature, whether he's addressing critics on "The Family Tree," paying tribute to his roots on the hard-rocking "Southern Family Anthem" ("We may be trash, but we're a family," he sings), or diving into deeply personal territory with heartfelt ballads like "Daddy's Hands," a song which was inspired by an illness in his fiancee's family last year.
"Drea's dad had a stroke right after Christmas," he says, "It was really tough. We all were in the hospital from right after Christmas until late January and it was insanely hard on Drea to watch her dad in this debilitated state, but it had a double edge cut to me as it reminded me of all the years I spent in the hospital with my own dad. I'd never been able to visit that emotion until I went through it through Drea's eyes. So this song is kind of a culmination of both of those experiences for me."
Elsewhere on the album, Shooter revisits an old Southern folktale with the story of "The Black Dog," writes a bittersweet ode to an old friend on "Born Again," and delivers a perfect love song with "The Deed and the Dollar."
Musically, Shooter says that Family Man was heavily influenced by artists such as Bob Dylan, John Prine, and Harry Nilsson, as well as his new-found friendship with legendary songwriter Steve Young, the man behind such classics as "Lonesome On'ry and Mean" and "Seven Bridges Road."
Recording in his adopted hometown of New York, producing himself for the first time, and playing with a group of extremely talented musicians he has dubbed "The Triple Crown," Shooter is more relaxed and confident on this album than ever before. Featuring renowned jazz pianist Erik Deutsch, guitarist Chris Masterson, drummer Tony Leone, bassist Jeff Hill, pedal steel player John Graboff, and rising roots music star Eleanor Whitmore, who contributes harmony vocals as well as playing mandolin and fiddle, the Triple Crown brings to mind such ensembles as Merle Haggard's Strangers, Bob Wills' Texas Playboys, and Buck Owens' Buckaroos, becoming an integral part of the music and adding their unique stamp to each and every note. To complete the lineup, Shooter brought in iconic harmonica player Mickey Raphael, who is best known for his long partnership with Willie Nelson.
"I really wanted to cut a harmonica-heavy album," Shooter says, "I feel like these days there aren't enough harmonicas on country records. And I don't mean blues harmonica played to create the front porch effect. I'm talking about melodic, beautiful, midnight cowboy harmonica like on the old records in the '60's and '70's. And there are two kinds of people that play that harmonica, Mickey Raphael and Mickey Raphael fans."
In addition to the Triple Crown, Shooter enlists the help of longtime friend Tom Morello on the roots-rocker "The Long Road Ahead."
"Tom and I have been friends for ten years now," Shooter explains, "I've been fortunate enough to witness a lot of his career first hand and how he handles things. He was my guru for years, and still is in many ways. I always go to him when things get too confusing, as he is a wise man in many ways, and a wizard musically. He's asked me to be a part of many of his Justice Tour shows and his Hotel Cafe gigs that he did in LA, and even asked me to sing on one of his Nightwatchman tracks, which was my honor. I've always wanted him to blow through a guitar solo on one of my songs, and when I was working on "The Long Road Ahead" I felt it needed to go to outer space at some point in the song, and I had a feeling he was the man for the job. I was right."
The word "outsider" is perhaps the best one to describe Shooter's music and career. The only son of two country music giants, he began his career as a teenager by recording an industrial rock album with his father, which was later re-recorded and released as Waylon Forever.
He later formed the band Stargunn and after relocating to L.A., they quickly gained a reputation as one of the area's top underground rock bands, being named one of the best unsigned acts in the nation by Music Connection and catching the attention of Tom Morello, who produced a still-unreleased album for the group. After the band's breakup, Shooter was presented with the opportunity to audition for hard rock supergroup Velvet Revolver, but he says that he was never interested in the job, choosing instead to pursue a career in country music.
In 2005, Shooter began his solo career by issuing Put the O Back in Country, which included the hit singles "4th of July" and "Steady at the Wheel," the latter of which held the #1 spot on the Texas Music Chart for eight weeks. After gaining a sizable and devoted fan base and appearing in the Oscar-winning film Walk the Line, Shooter followed his debut with the critically acclaimed Electric Rodeo a year later.
After releasing The Wolf in 2007, he seemingly did a complete 360 with his 2010 release Black Ribbons, an apocalyptic progressive rock concept album which featured narration by horror maestro Stephen King. The independently-released album was hailed as a masterpiece by many in the underground press and the Boston Globe called it one of "the best albums you probably didn't hear" in their year-end list.
In early 2011, Shooter once again caused a stir when he announced the creation of a new music movement called XXX, an outlet for artists who are "too country for rock, too rock for country." After playing these artists (many of whom are unsigned or signed to independent labels) on his long-running radio program on Sirius XM's Outlaw Country, Shooter has quickly gained a reputation as one of the biggest supporters of underground and independent music in the United States and, fittingly, Billboard named him one of "the best and brightest music industry characters" in March 2011.
Most recently, Shooter released issued the single "Outlaw You," a rallying cry against corporate country musicians cashing in on the legacy of his father and other outlaw country legends that was featured on CMT and embraced by many in the country music community, including iconic music writer Chet Flippo.
Shooter Jennings is undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with in country music. It is his clear vision, his undefeatable XXX spirit, paired with his rebel DNA and the mature outlook and emotional strength of a father and a Family Man, that makes Shooter Jennings one of the most exciting artists of his era and makes this his best album to date.
Shooter Jennings - "The Deed and the Dollar":
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