Shooter Jennings: Electric Rodeo

Waylon's son ups the country quotient on Album #2, maintains the high quality and sense of humor

Shooter Jennings

Electric Rodeo

Label: Universal South
Amazon affiliate
iTunes affiliate

After successfully reinserting a certain vowel on last year's winning Put the 'O' Back in Country, Shooter Jennings (Waylon's son, for those late to the party) wastes no time returning with Electric Rodeo. It's a good thing he's back already, too, because he's doing what very few artists on the country scene are doing these days: uniting the alt-country types and more-traditional-minded country fans against the Hot Nashville Hat Act Squad.

While a band of raconteurs like the Waco Brothers (beloved as they are to this writer) are the leading lights of the alt-country scene, they tend to rail against the state of modern country (see "The Death of Country Music" or "Drinkin' and Cheatin' and Death") without using a country framework to "fix" country; they're too punk and self-righteous for country. Jennings has no such problems tackling the topics of booze, women and life on the road while still appealing to the alt-country crowd; he's got Outlaw (read: proto-alt-country) imprimatur from his dad and a sound that could've been beamed directly from the 1970s -- no modern-day Nashville cheese here. And if Electric Rodeo is mellower than its predecessor, just remember: the same acts that play bars on Saturday night can play church services on Sunday morning.

So yeah, Jennings is singing songs about the road (the swampy opening title track), drugs ("Hair of the Dog" -- not the Nazareth tune) or both at once (the clever "Little White Lines") but the songs aren't polished to within an inch of their lives like those on Country Radio are. And for what it's worth, Jennings eschews a political bent -- in either direction -- unlike many of his radio contemporaries. Besides, wine, women and song take up all his time.

Jennings just sounds more country on Album #2. Maybe playing his father in last year's Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line -- he was the longhaired, bearded fella holed up with Joaquin Phoenix in a dingy Nashville apartment with a disconnected telephone -- channeled a more country bent to Jennings' vocals, because he digs down inside himself and pulls out a rich, deep voice for many of Electric Rodeo's more introspective, countrified tracks. He wrings pathos out of tunes like "your heroes turn out to be assholes" on the dusty, lap steel and acoustic guitar "The Song Is Still Slipping Away", and uses that voice to great black comic effect on "Some Rowdy Women" ("I'd gladly trade all my city livin' / For some rowdy women / In a honky tonk tonight" -- and if that's not a full-on embrace of country music's ethos, then I don't know what is) and "Aviators", which in lesser hands could've devolved into country parody ("I'm sorry about that time I got drunk and hit on your mom / And slashed your daddy's tires / But I figure they had it coming"), but Jennings saves the day with a perfect funny-but-sad line: "You can't see the tears / Behind my aviators". That said, he can't quite spin the (literal) swamp rocker, "Alligator Chomp (The Ballad of Martin Luther Frog, Jr.)", into anything more than a novelty/throwaway tune, but it's Electric Rodeo's only clunker.

Whether Jennings can appeal to anyone who doesn't read No Depression remains to be seen. Electric Rodeo is more cohesive than Put the 'O' but it's a little more introspective and it lacks a grab-you-by-the-collar song like "4th of July". Still it's a great album for someone doesn't know much about country but wants to learn more and has a sneaking suspicion there's more to the genre than what gets played on the radio.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.