DIARY - 20 FEBRUARY 2008 - SHOOTER JENNINGS
JENNINGS - THE WOLF
Nashville, in the summertime, in 1996 I was listenin' to my dad and Johnny
Cash/ doin' chain gang and talkin' trash with Savannah and smokin' cigarettes/
but it wasn't that long till I tasted the salt of the sea/ cause she was
still in love with the guy she left for me/ so she stood there cryin'
as I packed my pack/and I knew that I was lyin' when I said that I'd be
back." - This Ol Wheel - Shooter Jennings.
Shooter Jennings performed at Shotgun Willie Nelson's July 3 and 4
picnics at Carl's Corner and Fort Worth in 2006 he was swamped by
fans with the same fervour reserved for Billy Joe Shaver.
And it wasn't just because Shooter had actress partner Drea De Matteo
of Sopranos and Joey fame on his arm.
That was before Billy Joe was arrested for shooting a knife-wielding
drinker outside Papa Joe's Saloon at Lorena, south of Waco.
Shooter, now 28, and his hot band the 357s had genuine star appeal
with two studio CDS and a 2006 disc Live At Irving Plaza in their
Now Jennings has released his fourth album The Wolf and landed
visual roles on Nine Network show CSI and the top rating nocturnal
Letterman and Leno variety shows.
Shooter sets the pace with his autobiographical entrée This
Ol Wheel that dates back to his 1996 debut in Nashville and name
checks heroes including his late dad Waylon and Johnny Cash.
< Shooter 2006 - photo by Carol Taylor
fast forward to about 2000 and 3/ I'm standin' on the corner of Hollywood
and Vine/ just a six string and me/ and that Capitol building lookin'
up at that thing/ wonderin' when am I gonna get my chance to sing."
Shooter's travelogue is replete with illustration of the L.A. Capitol
building towering over Tootsies on Lower Broadway in downtown Nashville
on The Wolf CD slick.
And the song exploits time travel on this riveting honky tonk tableau
with the Ragin' Cajun Doug Kershaw guesting on fiddle.
This is especially significant as a naked woman invaded the stage at an
historic Willie picnic and was captured of film bypassing Shooter's dad
Waylon to get to Kershaw.
POOK - SLIMY GUN
the last nine or ten/old Ah Pook waltzed in/ put his slimy gun to my head
and said/ 'son, this is the end." - This Ol Wheel - Shooter Jennings
revealed the source of his Ah Pook lyric.
Ah Pook, taken from a William S. Burroughs story, figures as a kind of
mythic levelling figure, intent on screwing up any good situation.
"It's really kind of personally specific," Shooter revealed.
"I had this dream, and my dad was in the dream. I asked him when
I was going to die, and he said, 'In the last nine or ten.' And I was
like, what is that supposed to mean? That whole segment is about this."
Shooter also injected his entrée with his version of rap but says
two country singers more heavily influenced it.
"I love Jerry Reed and Charlie Daniels The Devil Went Down to
Georgia," Shooter revealed.
"There's an art to writing lyrics that flow really fast and rhyme.
There's kind of that rhythm that Jerry Reed's got that I like. That's
very close to rap. With This Ol' Wheel, I wasn't setting out to
rap. I was just coming up with my way to sing it. It kind of came across
like that. I'm a big rap fan, too. I bought the Kanye West record. I get
a lot of influence from that. The rhythmic phrasing in those things is
like The King and 'Cilla/ got a little too drunk last night/ and we came
in and it turned in to a Hank and Audrey fight/ you fixed my face up good/
and I broke everything in sight/ and as we coasted out on fumes in raised
the light/ when you slipped your little hand in mine." - Tangled
Up Roses - Shooter Jennings.
a perfect segue to Tangled Up Roses, ignited by a Hank and Audrey
style fracas that finds true love flourishing after being pricked
by the not so rosy storms of life.
Shooter sets the scene with conflict and then balances it with a regret-tinged
refrain that finds the combatants reunited by the power of their passion.
It's a scenario that Shooter shares with Hank Jr but not Hank 111
who has slammed him in interviews.
"I started playing drums when I was very young, about five or
six," Shooter recalled.
I got older, I started to realise how much I cared about it. I chose not
to go to college; I chose to take a year off to try and pursue my own
music, which turned into two years, which turned into me just going, 'I
want to move to L.A. I don't even want to take college.'
My dad and mom were really cool about it. I was really lucky to have parents
of guys in bands that I played with during that time, and throughout my
life, still had parents who didn't really understand music and didn't
believe that you could make a living doing music - which you can't."
- THE OLD FRIEND
talked about old times, the good times, the bad times/ and how deep down
we're still the same/ we've talked about women and the hard times we're
living/ how some things just never change/ now old friend I might have
gone crazy/ I might have lived alone a moment too long/ I keep the song,
don't let me let lazy/ when the rest of the world leaves me blue/ oh thank
God I still have you." - Old Friend - Shooter Jennings.
lean and wiry with tattoos snaking up his arms - his mother's name on
one, a gun on the other - and a crimson stud gleaming in one ear.
Underneath that gun are the letters CBCS, for "country boy can survive."
The earring is an eagle silhouette spread-winged into the letter "W"
- an icon ID for the original outlaw, Waylon.
That same icon is etched onto Shooter's stomach, but the one in his ear
is even more special.
"My dad got his ear pierced when he was - I swear to God - sixty,
because he wanted to be like me," the younger Jennings explains.
"This was the earring he wore - and I'm wearing it now."
Shooter emulated his sire by blazing his own trail - he fronted a rock
band Stargunn in Los Angeles for six years until 2003.
It was where he played sold-out shows at the Viper Room and the Roxy.
Shooter also filled in for Axl Rose onstage - twice - with Guns N' Roses.
But Shooter sounds more reminiscent of Hank Jr and Willie on his beatific
ballad - Old Friend.
He drenches his trip down memory lane with imagery plucked from his short
but colourful past in a tribute to his dad who died at 64 on February
"'Old Friend, about my buddy, is one of my favourite songs I've ever
written. It's opening up and letting him know that I probably would have
gone crazy a couple of times, hadn't it been for him. The Wolf that song
is a real self-discovery, realising that I'm different and nobody's going
to help me out. There's a lot that you have to deal with when you're in
this situation from being in the spotlights, to just personally dealing
with people that say they're your friends, but really have it out to undermine
you and push you out of the way. There's been a lot of that in my life
recently, and so I think that a lot of the theme of the record is a stance
Shooter has long rolled with the punches in comparisons with his sire.
"It never was something that was looming over me until the two records
came out, during that time," Shooter recalled.
"We had a Rolling Stone review of Electric Rodeo and they
didn't even mention one song - not anything about the record. They just
said it was going to take better songs to live up to my dad's stuff. That
kind of stuff makes me frustrated, because I feel like I have to keep
putting out records until they can't write the same review every time.
But it's not so much about pressure. I don't feel like I have to be an
In the future, Jennings hopes to finally release an album he recorded
with his father years back but that will be long after The Wolf departs.
only thing in my days of chains/ is this woman in my bed and this age
in my brain/ slow ride on a slow train/ gonna get back home and/ tell
'em where I came from." - Slow Train - Leroy Powell.
was happy to have the Oak Ridge Boys sing on his hard driving Slow
Train, penned by 357s slide and steel guitarist Leroy Powell.
But he admits he had to summon courage to approach group member Duane
Once in the studio, it turned out to be a bonding experience when
Allen began telling him stories about Jennings' parents, Waylon and
The idea to feature the vocal quartet stemmed from a conversation
Jennings had with Dave Cobb, who produced The Wolf.
remember which one of us said, 'wouldn't it be crazy if the Oak Ridge
Boys sang on the record?'" Shooter revealed.
"I called Marc Dottore, my manager. He was like, 'Yeah, I know a
friend of Duane Allen's.' A few minutes later, I got his number. I stared
at the number for, like, two weeks. Marc kept asking me, 'Have you called
the Oaks yet?' I felt stupid calling these guys to sing on my record.
I think I had the number memorised by the time I called them.
"The first thing Duane did was start telling me stories about my
dad and things that they had done. I was really honoured that they would
be on the album. All four of them showed up, and I think they were a little
nervous and didn't know what to think. I was definitely nervous. We were
like little children. To be able to have the Oaks come in and sing on
the song was so cool."
on writing my songs to sing, along this two bit smoke parade/ I never
wanted the money, and I never wanted fame/ like everyone else who rides
my name/ who's poised to push right me in front of that train/ and make
out like pirates, while I sink in the rain." - The Wolf - Shooter
mentions the late Texan temptress Anna Nicole Smith's name in the title
track - a song he wrote that delves into the concept of fame and celebrity.
He says his parents never succumbed to all of the trappings of a celebrity
"There's a big difference between country celebrities and, you know,
Paris Hilton," Shooter explained.
"My parents were really humble. My dad knew his worth, but he was
very humble. Our life was humble. There were a lot of celebrities they
knew who were always going to Hollywood and all these parties. He really
didn't do that.
"When I first showed up in L.A., I was always going out all the time.
But now, in my life, I can't stand it. I stay in most of the time. You
watch these people, and they just constantly go to all these events just
to be seen all the time. Celebrity is such a big deal now. It's like this
poor Anna Nicole. Regardless of whether you thought she was a good person
or not or how she lived her life, ideally she's a girl from a small town
who wanted to be famous."
Cowboys eat grinded grits/ they don't always wear hats or sling guns on
their hips/ they know a song by the taste on her lips/ and he's as lonesome
on any given day/ as the sound of that far away train/ that he prays someday
will take him away." - Concrete Cowboys - Shooter Jennings.
it's his band that kicks loose on the swinging Time Management
Equally infectious is the reflective harmonica driven Concrete
Cowboy - a melodic sibling of Mamas Don't Let Your Mamas Grow
Up To Be Cowboys with rambling and Merle name checked.
"Lucky Lucinda was a big city girl/ hungering for country in
a rock-n-roll world/ dice shooting Darren was a sucker for Merle/
she saw the hollow look in his eyes/ she longed to slide his boots
under her bed tonight."
More vitriolic is his version of Higher - penned by 357s drummer
Bryan Keeling and Powell - that is tempered by the reality rooted
ruptured romance of Blood From A Stone.
Shooter's star has soared far higher than fellow scion, Hank Williams
II1 who made extremely critical comments about Jennings during an interview.
Shooter refused to hit back with the same degree of contempt.
"I'm a fan of his, and I don't know why he's starting shit. I believe
that if we got together and had a drink, we'd be friends," Shooter
says smoking his peace pipe.
"I only met him for five seconds, maybe six years ago. I'm anti-drama;
I don't make a big fit out of nothing. But I'm starting to learn how to
stand up for myself. My whole life, I've let people walk over me and do
shit, and I just kind of say, 'Oh, it's cool.' Now I'm learning how to
stand up and just be a man about things."
TIME I LET YOU DOWN
my mama tried to keep me out of trouble/ but the devil wouldn't have it
that way/ Oh boy, pray and stay humble/ were the last words that I heard
her say." - Last Time I Let You Down - Ted Russell Kamp-Anthony
I Let You Down, penned by 357s bassist Ted Russell Kamp and Anthony
Smith, owes as much to his singing mother Jessi Colter as Drea, now 36
and mother of their daughter Alabama Gypsy Rose.
Kamp, born in the Hudson River Valley in New York state and now living
in Los Angeles, has released four solo albums Dedications in 1996,
NorthSouth in 2005, Nashville Fine Line and Divisadero
- both in 2006.
He joined the 357s in 2003 and wrote Steady At The Wheel - one
of the singles from Put The O Back In Country.
It was accompanied by a video - an essential marketing tool to break Shooter's
So The Wolf may be perceived as the son of Will The Wolf Survive,
also cut by Los Lobos, but this album should be judged as a whole - not
Which means the cover of Mark Knopfler's 1985 hit Walk Of Life
fits because the video is designed to break the singer beyond the confines
of a radio genre that still can't find a bullet for Shooter's raunchy
blues flavoured country.
Jennings and the 357s have gained a strong fan base, but they've done
it primarily through touring.
Mainstream country radio stations haven't exactly embraced him and his
music, and Jennings says that's a big problem for him.
"I don't want to be on MTV," Shooter says.
"I want to be on CMT. I want to be on country radio. I love country
music. I believe in country music. My heart is in country music. The way
radio looks at my music is like I'm a threat, and I'm not. I'm not someone
who's trying to come in and bring the whole thing down. I wish they would
play me next to Carrie Underwood, but they don't. They won't give me that
TV - BEYOND RADIO
is a diamond, who shatters like glass/ she lives in colour, in a world
white and black." - She Lives In Colour - Shooter Jennings
Shooter is philosophical about his fate, fuelled by his growing catalogue
if not a flood of chart toppers.
"I don't think I'll ever be the kind of guy that's going to be
able to write a No. 1 hit," he says.
"Writing, to me, is an autobiographical journey to some degree.
I just kind of get better at admitting my own faults and knowing myself.
If you're a songwriter and you lie to yourself about who you are in
life, then you kind of lie in your music. Even with my first two records,
in comparison to this one, I hadn't learned a lot about myself. Or
I hadn't admitted a lot about myself that I needed to.
why I like this record so much. There's a lot of failure, and there's
a lot of emotional distress and conflict based on things that I've lost
or gained. The one thing that I want to do is always get a little better
at being able to tell my side of the story -my way. That's what will make
it different. Being honest."
fatalistic about airplay - 4th Of July from Put The O Back In
Country was his biggest radio hit in a sea of radio rejection.
"The funny thing is that when they do that, they don't realise that
they're shutting me out completely," Shooter explained.
"I don't want to be in rock, but rock wouldn't have me if I tried.
I'm way too country for rock 'n' roll, so my only avenue is country. And
they're like, 'You're too different. Go home. The thing about rock and
roll is that there's the freedom and artistry of the music there that's
not as ever present in country.
"With me, a lot of what they often say is that it's either too rock
and roll for country, or too Southern for rock and roll. So there is this
place that I, and a lot of other artists, get thrown into. It's what I've
tried to fight against with my country. If they let these doors open for
me and Hank III and a lot of these other artists it would really broaden
country to a place that I feel like it needs to go.
"The hardest thing is being heard. If we can get our music out there
and the masses can hear it, I think that they'll like it. It's all just
kind of a big hope."
But Shooter has the last laugh.
"Eventually, if I wasn't so good looking, I think I'd go home and
kill myself," he jokes.
"I just want to keep making music until they either kill me, or until
we make it. One of the two."
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