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Around Our Town...Music to My Ears

Shooter Jennings: Electric Rodeo Drive By Truckers: A Blessing And A Curse

06/01/2006 - I, like many others, grew up listening to bands like Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, and Black Sabbath right along with George Jones, Merle Haggard, and Johnny Cash. Wait a minute. Was I the only one? Nah. I'll bet at least some of you did, too. I was also into "tweeners," like Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Charlie Daniels Band, and the Marshall Tucker Band. Why do I keep saying I was into all that stuff? I still am.

It's kind of strange how true it is that what goes around, comes around. It's not that things go away, either. They just sort of hang around, until someone notices them again, and picks them up. Here's an example: The Outlaw country music movement. It all started with Johnny, Waylon, and Willie (last names not required -- that's how you know you're HUGE). It happened in the early seventies. It was all attitude and anti-establishment. And now…here it is again. Big & Rich, Gretchen Wilson, and even Kid Rock are in on it. Same game, different players. And you know what? I was paying attention then, and I still am.

Enter Shooter Jennings. Shooter is the only child of Waylon and Jesse Colter. He has just released his second album, "Electric Rodeo." He lacks the polish of his "Outlaw" contemporaries, but makes up for it in authenticity. I'm not kidding. He sounds and looks like his daddy, and possesses every bit as much attitude. The difference is in the music. "Electric Rodeo is equal parts old-school country, southern fried rock, and seventies arena anthems. There are moments where Shooter sounds startlingly like his namesake (Shooter's real name is Waylon, too), while at other times sounding like a legitimate rock star. He really does evoke that image, too, with his long hair, sunglasses and low slung Gibson Flying V guitar. I can sum this all up simply by saying that Shooter has created one of the coolest albums I've heard in quite awhile, and it fits me just right.

I mentioned Lynyrd Skynyrd a little earlier. Not surprising, since their music happens to be on a short list of default settings in my listening program. In fact, I'll note here for posterity that I want "Simple Man" played at my funeral.

I believe that at one time, Skynyrd was the greatest American rock and roll band. That, of course, is just my opinion, but it's an opinion that is shared by a lot of folks. It also turns out that a lot of folks (probably the same ones) currently consider Drive By Truckers to hold that distinction. I'm one of them. Simply put, DBT are amazing. Like so much of the music I've mentioned here, they incorporate rural, redneck ideology and rock and roll attitude into a very compelling, very American musical amalgam.

DBT's music is characterized by a driving three guitar attack, incredible songwriting, and arresting vocals. The three guitar players all take turns singing, and all have very different approaches. One of them, Patterson Hood, is the dominant force in the band, which is good, since the guy is a sort of genius.

Having said all that, I should mention also that "A Blessing And A Curse" is nowhere near their best album. "Southern Rock Opera" holds that position firmly, in my estimation. In fact, SRO is one of my desert island albums. I consider it to be one of the top ten rock albums ever recorded. Don't get me wrong, though. "A Blessing And A Curse" is better than 99.9% of the stuff that's being put out there these days, and is worth every penny you'd spend on it. If you like your rock with a southern accent, check out the title track of this most recent DBT offering.

There you have it. Two more selections for your country/rock hybrid collection. Or maybe these will be your first. I know. You're still not sure how country and rock could possibly go together. Let's see. Maybe I can find another way to qualify this whole deal. Here's a scenario: You're sitting in the stands at a rodeo. Or better yet, maybe you know the right folks, and you're sitting behind the chutes. The cowboy tucks his chin, nods, and they pull the gate. That big, nasty bull rears up and explodes out into the arena. Overhead, on the P.A., AC/DC's "Back In Black" blares loudly as the huge Brahma alternately pounds the earth and lunges for the sky, the rider flopping around like a ragdoll on his back. If you're excited as much by the music as the ride, you get it, and you just might be a country/rock hybrid weirdo like me. Or maybe not, and you will simply waste your listening on Zamfir (the undisputed king of the pan flute), Yanni (unchallenged king of new age cheese), and Frank Yankovic (god of the polka universe). I hope the latter isn't the case, but hey, it's your life, and you can ruin it if you wish.

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