When 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 had genuine star appeal with just two studio CDS and a live disc in their catalogue.

Now Jennings has released his fourth album and landed 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.

The singer's travelogue rolls forward to 2003 and beyond on a 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 a filmed Willie picnic and by-passed Waylon to get to Kershaw.

It's 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.

Jennings walks the walk with far more credibility than Hank Williams 111 - he sounds more like Hank Jr and Willie on the beatific ballad Old Friend.

The Oak Ridge Boys join Shooter on the hard driving Slow Train but it's his band that kicks loose on the swinging Time Management 101.

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.

More vitriolic is Higher that is tempered by the reality rooted ruptured romance of Blood From A Stone.

Maybe Last Time I Let You Down owes as much to his singing mother Jessi Colter as Drea.

The Wolf may be the son of Will The Wolf Survive, also cut by Los Lobos, but the album should be judged as a whole - not separate songs.

Which means the cover of Mark Knopfler's 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.

More later.

top / back to diary