Album review: Shooter Jennings' 'Family Man'
After the psychedelic dystopia of 2010’s “Black Ribbons,” Shooter Jennings returns to his dust-kicker roots on “Family Man.” Or, more specifically, as he blows out in one breath on “The Real Me”: “I’m a double-talkin’, chicken-lickin’, meaner-than-the-dickens, sick and wicked, hole-diggin’ son of a gun!” Forgive us; we thought you were just the progeny of Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter.
Jennings is a Rust Belt Renaissance man on this collection of 10 songs that roams from Southern rock to melodic ballads that sound like Harry Nilsson hopping a train with a steel guitar. Whatever tack Jennings takes, it’s with gusto and pride. On “Southern Family Anthem,” which sounds like Tom Petty in a rough mood, the chorus is “We may be trash but we’re a family.”
When Jennings combines styles in one song, he expands the edges of contemporary country. “Manifesto No. 4” marries swamp gospel with the chug of barroom rock. On the last track, “Born Again,” the song builds to a layered, rhythmic climax that closes with fuzzy textures, reversed vocals and other touches from his experimental side.
Those other textures are so skillfully woven in that it’s not till the record’s last moment that we see all that could’ve been. Next album, Jennings should give as much head-tripping as foot-stomping.
— Margaret Wappler
Three stars (out of four)